53rd Fighter Squadron "Warhawks"

The 53rd Fighter Squadron "Warhawks" (Romanian: Escadrila 53 Vânătoare "Warhawks") is a squadron of the Romanian Air Force, first formed on 1 June 1940, then reactivated on 29 September 2016. The squadron currently operates the F-16AM/BM fighter aircraft.[2]

53rd Fighter Squadron
Escadrila 53 Vânătoare
53rd Fighter Squadron Warhawks.svg
Squadron badge
Active1 June 1940 - 15 December 1944
29 September 2016 - present
Country Romania
BranchRoyal Romanian Air Force
Romanian Air Force
Size17 F-16AM/BM (current)
Garrison/HQRoAF 86th Air Base (Baza 86 Aeriană), Borcea, Călărași County
Motto(s)We prey, they pray
EquipmentWorld War II:


EngagementsSecond World War
Comandor Mihăiță "Mitză" Marin[1]


1940 - 1941Edit

On 1 June 1940, Grupul 7 Vânătoare (7th Fighter Group) was activated within the Flotila 1 Vânătoare (1st Fighter Flotilla), with the base on the Pipera airfield, near Bucharest. The group consisted of the 53rd Squadron (equipped with the Hawker Hurricane) and 57th Squadron (equipped with Messerschmitt Bf-109E-3). The 7th Fighter Group, at that time, was the best equipped Romanian Air Force unit.[3]

Emblem of the 53rd Fighter Squadron during World War 2, featuring Mickey Mouse.[4]

The first deployment of 7th Group, took place on 11 June 1940, on the airfield of Florești.[3] After Romania joined the Axis in the autumn of 1940, a German military mission arrived in the country. It included a German fighter group (I./JG 28), which started to fly training missions with the pilots of the 7th Fighter Group.[5] On 10 October 1940, the 53rd Squadron moved to the Câmpia Turzii aerodrome, where it remained until 5 November. In November 1940, the instruction courses of the Romanian pilots with the Germans started on the Pipera airfield.

On 18 January 1941, the squadron was transferred to Grupul 5 Vânătoare (5th Fighter Group), being moved to Constanța, on the Mamaia airfield. On 21 June 1941, one day before the start of the campaign, the 53rd Squadron was redeployed on the Buzău aerodrome, from where it was to accompany the Romanian bombers. However, a pilot of the 53rd Squadron remained on the Mamaia aerodrome, Lieutenant Horia Agarici, whose plane was under repair. In the hangars from Mamaia there was a second Hurricane, also under repair. The latter, having problems with engine overheating and could not be used in flight for long periods.[3][6]

On 22 June 1941, the 53rd Squadron accompanied 10 PZL.37 Łoś bombers that attacked the airfield of Cetatea Albă. The pilots of the squadron managed to shoot down 4 enemy aircraft, with the loss of 2 bombers to ground fire.[3] A day later Constanța was attacked by Ilyushin DB-3 bombers. After the first wave of bombers managed to hit the port, Lt. Horia Agarici took off in the Hurricane with the engine overheating problems and managed to shoot down 3 bombers of the second wave before having to disengage in order to avoid destroying his engine.[6] The same day, the squadron returned to Mamaia, and managed to shoot down a further 2 DB-3s.[7]

The defense of Dobrogea continued. Lieutenant Constantin "Bâzu" Cantacuzino was credited with a probable victory on 2 July 1941. The 53rd Squadron was visited and congratulated by General Ion Antonescu for the 25 victories obtained in five days of effective fighting.[3] In the first 10 days of fighting, the pilots of the squadron obtained 32 confirmed and 3 unconfirmed victories, with no losses.[7]

On 15 September 1941, a Hurricane patrol took off to accompany the airplane of Marshal Ion Antonescu, which was traveling to Nikolayev, where the funeral of General Eugen von Schobert, commander of the German 11th Army, was taking place. Once there, the Hurricane patrol flew over the funeral procession.[3]

The number of air victories at the end of 1941 was 52 aircraft, with a single loss in battle.[3]

1942 - 1944Edit

During 1942, the 53rd Squadron did not take part in further fighting on the Eastern Front. The squadron, which had been equipped with the Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, started converting to the IAR-80. Later it converted again to the Bf-109E, finally being equipped with Bf-109G fighters. The squadron left the 5th Fighter Group and was assigned to the joint German-Romanian unit I./JG 4 at Mizil, near Ploiești.[8] The squadron was called 4./JG 4 by the Germans.[9] During Operation Tidal Wave on 1 August 1943, the 53rd Squadron was credited with downing two B-24 bombers.[3]

In 1944, the squadron was integrated back into the 7th Fighter Group. On 19 April, the 7th Fighter Group (with the 53rd and 57th Squadrons) was transferred on the front in Moldavia, under the command of the 1st Air Corps. On 22 April they started to fly missions in the Târgu Frumos area.[5] On 15 December 1944, the 53rd Squadron was disbanded, together with the 56th and 57th Squadrons and the command of the 1st Fighter Flotilla.[3]

A Romanian F-16 escorts B-1B Lancers during a training mission for Bomber Task Force Europe, 29 May 2020

2016 - presentEdit

The 53rd Fighter Squadron was reactivated on 29 September 2016, with the arrival of the first F-16s from Portugal.[10] During 2017 the first pilots got their IOC meaning the unit could start taking part in NATO air patrolling missions. In 2018 tasks were further expanded to include the full variety of tasks the F-16 can perform.[2] The squadron received its 17th F-16 on 25 March 2021.[11]

On 24 February 2022, the starting day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, two F-16s intercepted a Sukhoi Su-27 of the Ukrainian Air Force that was approaching Romanian airspace. The Su-27 was escorted to the 95th Air Base in Bacău.[12]

Four F-16s of the fighter squadron were deployed to the Šiauliai Air Base as part of the Baltic Air Policing mission. On 7 April, two Romanian F-16s of the "Carpathian Vipers" detachment intercepted Russian Sukhoi Su-27 Flankers.[13]


  • Moroșanu, Teodor Liviu; Melinte, Dan Alexandru (2010). Romanian Fighter Colors 1941-1945. MMP Books. ISBN 978-83-89450-90-6.

Further readingEdit

Tănase, Jănel; Teacă, Ciprian (2018), 53rd Fighter Squadron - From Hurricane To... F 16 -, Bucharest

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Pe lângă critici și controverse se uită un element-cheie: F-16 e pentru România mai mult decât un avion superior MiG-21 LanceR". DefenseRomania (in Romanian). 12 January 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Escadrila 53 (FAR)". f-16.net.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Turturică, Sorin (5 March 2017). "Escadrila 53 Vanatoare "Mamaia" In Timpul Celui De-Al Doilea Razboi Mondial – Elemente Cronologice". Liga Militarilor Profesionisti (in Romanian). Archived from the original on 6 August 2017.
  4. ^ Moroșanu & Melinte 2010, p. 49.
  5. ^ a b Nitu, Victor. "7th Fighter Group". WorldWar2.ro.
  6. ^ a b Turturică, Sorin. "Portret de aviator: Horia Agarici, vânătorul de bolşevici". Historia (in Romanian).
  7. ^ a b Moroșanu & Melinte 2010, p. 40.
  8. ^ Nitu, Victor. "5th Fighter Group". WorldWar2.ro.
  9. ^ "Jagdgeschwader 4".
  10. ^ "Se reinfiinteaza escadrila lui Horia Agarici - 53 Warhawks". UCT Media (in Romanian). 29 September 2016.
  11. ^ "Romania si-a completat Escadrila 53 de avioane F-16. Cea de-a 17-a aeronava a sosit din Portugalia". Defense Romania (in Romanian). 25 March 2021.
  12. ^ "Avion militar ucrainean, interceptat și aterizat la Bacău". Ministerul Apărării Naționale (in Romanian). 24 February 2022.
  13. ^ Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office (8 April 2023). "Romanian F-16s launch first Alert Scramble safeguarding Baltic airspace". Allied Air Command.