Romanian Air Force
Romania has a old and proud
aviation history, being one of the few countries in the
world to imagine, build and fly various types of aircraft.
This history of aviation in Romania began very early in
1529, with the work of Conrad Haas, an artillery engineer
and chief of arsenal of the town of Sibiu. Haas, a complex
personality of the Renaissance, is nevertheless the father
of the multi-stage rocket. He wrote about the construction
of multistage rockets and tested many models in flight.
Apparently these are the earliest existent writings about
the science of rocket engineering in Europe.
After the pioneering work of Conrad Haas in the 16th
Century, the next known written document that deals with
rocket-building and fireworks has its origin between 1784
and 1801 in Moldavia, another Romanian Principality. The
text is part of a larger document of a great Moldavian
family, the Conachi. The writing probably belongs to Gavril
Conachi (Great Minister of Internal Affairs in 1785),
schooled in mathematics and technology, initiated into the
knowledge of ballistics. The language used in this text has
technical terms coming from different sources, which is
common for that time. It has 22 sketches without dimensions
and guide marks, and a table with eight variants of rockets,
arranged according to the mass of the fuel. The manuscript
offers necessary details for the construction and use of a
part of the rocket components. The rockets were used for
fireworks and for besieging fortified towns.
The tradition in fireworks and rocket-building has a
continuation in the modern period of Romanian history by a
number of printed books that deal with this specific field
of aviation. One of them "Treatise on light pyrotechnics
used in field warfare and sieges" was written by lieutenant
Stergeanu, active in the Engineer Corps of the 2nd Regiment
from Focsani. It was published in Bucharest at Modern
printing house in 1892, and has 233 pages divided into 12
chapters, with 182 sketches which permit, in some cases, a
better understanding of the text.
One of the first suggestions for equipping a dirigible with
a jet engine dates back as far as 1886, when Romanian
inventor Alexandru Ciurcu (1884-1922), together with
Frenchman Just Buisson, suggested that an aerostat built and
exhibited with an electric engine at the Paris Exhibition of
Electricity in 1881 be provided instead with their jet
cylinder. Ciurcu built and tested their original first jet
engine on a small ship running on the Seine River in Paris
in 1886 and on a rail car in 1888.
In 1910 a small Flying Corps (Corpul
Aerian Romana) was established by the Romanian Army. During
the First World War the Flying Corps disintegrated as the
country was overrun by Austro-German forces.
On April 1st 1913, the Romanian Parliament voted the law of
the military aviation, Romania being the fifth nation in the
world to have an Air Force. The law on the organization of
Military Aeronautics stipulated the independent existence of
the aeronautics within the Engineers Command. Also Romania
was one of the first nations in the world to use aircraft in
the war, during the Balkans War in 1913. After Balkans war,
on 10 August 1915 by the Higher Royal Decree No. 305, Corpul
Aerian Roman - Romanian Flying Corps - was established,
having 80 pilots and 25 air observers. It was directly
subordinated to the Ministry of War and included all the
operational aviation and aerostation structures.
During the First World War the Flying Corps pilots and
aircraft of the Romanian Air Corps fought with German Air
Force winning many victories and performing air
reconnaissance missions, but finally disintegrated as the
country was overrun by Austro-German forces. After the
Romanian government was re-established in 1918, it set about
forming a new air arm, called the Divizia 1 Aeriana (1st Air
Division), under a Directorate of Army Aviation. The new air
arm expanded rapidly, and was able to rely increasingly on
the domestic aircraft industry. Unfortunately, when World
War Two arrived, most of this equipment was obsolete and,
with Romania staying neutral, it became difficult to obtain
new aircraft from abroad. In September 1940, a Luftwaffe
advisory mission arrived to reorganize the air force, (by
now called the Fortele Aeriene Regale Romane - Royal
Romanian Air Force), and on 23 November 1940 Romania signed
the Axis Tripartite Pact.
The number of German 'instructors' was progressively
increased, as was the quantity of German aircraft supplied.
When Germany attacked Russia on 22 June 1941, Romanian air
elements supported the German attack on the Bessarabian
front to liberate Eastern part of Romania, occupied in 1940
by Soviet troops. By the beginning of 1944, the Romanian
squadrons operating in Russia had suffered huge losses,
equivalent to almost half of the total front-line strength
of the Romanian air force. The severely weakened force was
withdrawn to help with countering growing Allied air attacks
on the Ploiesti oil fields. The antifascist coup of 23
August 1944 took the Germans completely by surprise.
Attempts were made to move German troops into Bucharest by
air, but as the Romanians held all the serviceable
airfields, the operation was cancelled. Romanian Air Force
fought the rest of the war against Germany, being active in
combats to liberate Romanian territory, Hungary,
Czechoslovakia and Austria, until the final victory on 8 May
1945. During WW II, Romanian pilots proved their abilities
as fighter pilots, the most known aces being Constantin "Bāzu"
Cantacuzino, Alexandru Serbanescu, Ion Dobran, Vasile "Chitu"
Gavriliu, Ion Milu, among many others.