Romania to buy drones from Turkey's Baykar as part of military endowment

BUCHAREST, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Romania plans to buy three unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs) systems from Turkish defence firm Baykar along with logistics support for an estimated $300 million before tax, the defence ministry said on Thursday.

The ministry said it has requested approval from the Romanian parliament to begin the tender process to acquire 18 Bayraktar TB2 drones destined for its ground forces as part of the country's NATO targets and its military endowment plans.

"The acquisition for which approval has been requested will be initiated from 2022, depending ... on funding possibilities," the ministry said in a statement.

Romania, a NATO member since 2004, plans to raise defence spending to 2.5% of gross domestic product next year from 2% at present, President Klaus Iohannis said in March, in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The country, which shares a 650-kilometre (400 mile) border with Ukraine, is host to a U.S. ballistic missile defense system and, as of this year, has a permanent alliance battlegroup stationed on its territory.

Earlier this year, Romania's government approved a bill to buy 32 second-hand F-16 fighter jets from Norway. read more

French firm Naval Group and Romanian company Santierul Naval Constanta have yet to finalize a deal to sell Gowind navy corvettes to Romania as well as renovate two existing frigates for a total of 1.2 billion euros, with a decision potentially seen in September. read more

The country's biggest procurement contract to date has been a multi-year 4 billion euro U.S. Raytheon Patriot surface-to-air missile system, with the first shipment delivered in 2020.

The TB2 armed drones have been hugely popular in Ukraine, where they helped destroy Russian artillery systems and armoured vehicles. The TB2, which has also been used in the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, now spearheads Turkey's global defence export push.

Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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