March 15 (UPI) -- Romania's defense ministry is setting aside funds to purchase 20 additional F-16 fighter aircraft, local media reported on Wednesday.
The ministry's future procurement plans also include 8-wheeled armored personnel carriers and other equipment to support the country's ground forces. Romanian officials have not yet planned where to purchase the aircraft from, but are expected to approach the United States for a deal.
"At this moment, my intention is to purchase what is necessary for the Romanian army, but on the other hand and according to the government program, what I really want, especially since we have this political commitment of 2 percent, is to integrate as much as we can the industry in Romania, private or state-owned," Romanian Defense Minister Gabriel Les told Mediafax.
Reports of a potential F-16 buy follow Romania's earlier purchase of 12 of the fighters from Portugal in 2016. The country formally accepted the first six aircraft from that order in late September.
According to IHS Janes, Romania's plans coincide with a significant growth in defense spending. The country currently has a $3.8 billion defense budget for 2017. The budget equals 2 percent of its GDP, up from 1.42 percent in 2016.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a multirole fighter jet currently built by Lockheed Martin, formerly manufactured by General Dynamics. Notable operators include the United States, Turkey, Poland, Pakistan, South Korea and Greece.