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Saab J35F Draken - 712th Air Fighter Squadron, Romanian Air Force, 1971

After coming under Communist control in 1948, Romania was closely aligned with the international policies and goals of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. However by 1952, Gheorghiu-Dej (General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party) had gained full control of the party and Romania began a slow disengagement from Soviet domination. During 1958 Soviet troops retreated from Romania and no Warsaw Pact troops were allowed on Romanian territory after 1962. Following Gheorghiu-Dej's death in March 1965 the Romanian Parliamentary elections brought Nicolae Ceausescu to power and Ceausescu continued to conduct a more independent foreign policy that was increasingly divergent from the Soviet Union. In 1967 Romania was the only Communist state to maintain diplomatic relations with Israel after the Six-Day War and Ceausecu followed this rebellious stance by establishing diplomatic relations with West Germany. In 1968 Romania was the only Warsaw Pact country to openly condemn the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia with Ceausescu publicly condemning the action in a major speech in the Great National Assembly as being "a big mistake and a serious danger to peace in Europe and to the fate of Communism in the world". The surge in Ceausescu's personal popularity emboldened the vain Ceausecu to announce that Romania would immediately become a non-aligned and a neutral state.

In October 1968, as a focal point for this neutrality, Ceausecu announced the purchase of 30 Saab J35F Drakens from Sweden for the Romanian Air Force and also announced the creation of an indigenous programme to create a light subsonic aircraft for ground attack and tactical reconnaissance (later to emerge as the IAR-93). The purchase of the Saab J35F was an inspired choice as the Draken was undoubtedly the best value fighter aircraft available anywhere in the late 1960's especially at a fly-away price of SwKr 6m (£420,000) and the outstanding J35F featured the Ericcson PS-01 radar which was the longest-ranged set available anywhere in Western Europe until the F-15A entered front-line service in 1976. The first Romanian Drakens entered service during the Spring of 1969 with the 712th Air Fighter Squadron based at Baza 71 Aeriană, located near the town of Câmpia Turzii, and were followed by the 711th Air Fighter Squadron who exchanged their MiG-21's for Drakens during 1970.

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