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MiG-21 Jets Scrambled After Weather Balloon Is Detected In Romania’s Airspace

MiG-21 LanceR
File photo of a MiG-21 LanceR. (Image credit: USAF)

The Romanian Air Force investigated a “suspicious” weather balloon.

Two RoAF (Romanian Air Force) MiG-21 LanceR jets were scrambled after the service’s surveillance system detected an aerial object that looked like a weather balloon flying in the Romania’s airspace, the Romanian defence ministry said on Feb. 14, 2023, according to Reuters.

The two interceptors flew towards an area located in southeast Romania around 10 minutes after the suspicious object was first detected but once there, they could not confirm the presence of the balloon, reportedly flying at an altitude of 11,000 metres.

The aircraft patrolled the area for about 30 minutes, before returning home.

The MiG 21 LanceR is the upgraded avionics and weapons systems version of the MiG-21 Fishbed, developed by Elbit Systems and Aerostar Bacău for the Romanian Air Force. The first LanceR flew in 1996 and was a LanceR A version. The LanceR program saw the upgrade of a total of 114 MiG 21 airframes in three versions: the ground attack version (LanceR A), the two seater trainer version with ground attack capabilities (LanceR B) and the air superiority version (LanceR C). The upgrade aimed at making the old Cold War planes capable to use both eastern and western weapons systems, mainly focused in the cockpit configuration with the introduction of modern avionics, HOTAS and NATO compatible weapon systems. However, despite the upgrades, the MiG-21 LanceR remains a quite old aircraft mainly used to carried out QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) duties under the NATO control network by way of the Combined Air Operations Center in Torrejon.

The event occurred on the same day that Moldova, which borders Romania and Ukraine, briefly closed its air space after Russian Kalibr missile(s), most likely launched from a Russian ship near the Crimean Peninsula, overflew Moldovan airspace on their way to targets in Ukraine.
And, above all, the scramble occurred in the wake of the four objects shot down by the U.S. Air Force over the U.S. in little more than one week.

The first one was the famous Chinese high altitude balloon shot down on February 4, 2023, at 2:39 p.m. by an F-22 Raptor, belonging to the 1st Fighter Wing from Langley Air Force Base, shot down with an AIM-9X infrared-guided air-to-air missile off the coast of South Carolina and within U.S. territorial airspace. The second one was a “high altitude object” described as “cylindrical and silver-ish gray” and appeared to be floating, that was shot down by F-22 launched from Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson on Feb. 10 over Alaska. The third object was shot down on Feb. 11 over Yukon, Canada. The fourth, described as shaped like an octagon and flying at 20,000 feet, was shot down by an F-16 over Lake Huron. The debris of the last three objects have not been recovered yet and who has launched them, their real shape, purpose, etc, is still being investigated, although they now appear to have been commercial or research balloons.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.

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