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War in Moldova, 1992
By Alexandru Stratulat & Tom Cooper
Sep 29, 2003, 11:49

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After the dissolution of the USSR, the - now Russian - troops were not everywhere ready to pull out of the countries that emerged.

In the case of the Republic of Moldova (Moldavia is usually used in English), a small country between Romania, the Dnestr River, and the Ukraine, the Russian troops of the former 14th Soviet Army pulled back only over the Dnestr, continuing to occupy the eastern part of the country, where the members of the Russian minority declared the so-called "Pridnestrovskaya Moldovska" Republic ("PMR"), and began terrorising the local Moldovan population, forcing over 10.000 people to flee from their homes in 1991.

At the time, the commander of the 14th Army was Maj.Gen. Lebed: he requested a "unique" position for his troops in regards to their position in Moldova and also in relationship to Moscow, declaring a sort of independence for himself and his command. In fact, the 14th Army was an “army” only by its name: left with barely some 10.000 troops, it was already badly under equipped and undermanned, but still in possession of significant stocks of weapons and ammunition. Its remaining active units were as follows:

- 14th Army Headquarters (Tiraspol)
- 59th Guards "Kramatorskaya" Motorised Rifles Division (equipped with T-64BV tanks and MT-LB as well as BTR-80 armoured personnel carriers)
- 275 Missile Brigade (equipped with S-200/SA-5 Gammon, S-75/SA-2 Guideline and C-125/SA-3 Goa SAMs)
- 803 Missile Regiment (equipped with 9M140 “Uragan” surface-to-surface rockets calibre 280mm
- Helicopter Detachment (with four Mi-4s and four Mi-24s)
- Various support- and non-combat units

Interestingly, despite organizing what can only be described as a mutiny against his legal superiors, Lebed was never relieved of his command, but instead later even promoted... Beside the "regular" 14th Army, there were also volunteers from Russia, formed into a kind of a militia, sometimes designated as "Cossack Companies", fighting their own war for "Mother Russia". Various Ukrainian volunteers organized by nationalist Ukrainian organizations the objective of which was to bring Moldova under the Ukrainian control became active as well as several local warlords that organized their own "guards".

The Moldovans were only partially successful in building their own military, and were nowhere near as well equipped as the 14th Army. Their military had only few heavy weapons, several dozens of BTR-60 and BTR-70 APCs, and no tanks. Only one, undermanned motorised brigade was organized, while most of other combat formations were based on police units.

Because of this, the Russians - initially foremost different cossack and guards units - had no problems in occupying all the important bridges over Dnestr, and establishing good positions even on several places west of this river, including the town of Bendery (or Tighina in Romanian), with the purpose of enforcing the new borders of the "Transnistriya".

Moldovan policeman training recruits in use of ZU-23-2 gun. Note the title "Politia" on the back of his jacket, which identifies him as a Moldovan police officer: the Russians in Transnistria still use the designation "Militia". (Photo: transnistria.md via Alexandru Stratulat)


The Moldovan President Snegur attempted to negotiate with Moscow, but this would not undertake anything against Lebed. The situation with Romania was not better: the government was actually interested in putting Moldova under own control. Only France showed some interest in cooperation with Moldova, and signed even a Friendship Treaty. This was of almost no importance for the following events, however.

(Map by Tom Cooper, based on Encarta 2003)


MiG-29s

According to the OSCE treaties about the heavy weapons in the Europe, the Moldovans were permitted to have - between others - 50 combat aircraft and 50 helicopters: that was a theoretical number, which the Moldovans could not purchase for the lack of money and interest. Nevertheless, according to different treaties about the dissolution of the USSR, the Moldovans were at least to take over the equipment of the former Soviet military units stationed there. Of course, the Russians did their best to postpone the delivery of anything, and only in the early spring of 1992 was some equipment given over to the Republic of Moldova, between others also between 32 and 34 MiG-29A/C and between two and six MiG-29UBs of the former 86. IAP/119. IAD of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, based at Markuleshty AB. Initially, it was unclear how the Moldovans were to use these aircraft, and there were lots of rumours about them to be sold to - or exchanged for helicopters from - Belarus, the Ukraine, or even Romania. The Moldovan government declared in the public not to be interested in using them.

This changed as the tensions with the Russian minority and the 14th Army increased. At the time, there were only 14 qualified pilots in Moldova, all of them former members of the Soviet military. Four of them - Maj. Vitaliy Russu, Capt. Alexandr Daranutsa, 1st Lt. Svetoslav Neburak, and 1stLt. Alexandr Popovitch - were members of the former 643. IAP (a unit taken over by the Ukraine, in 1992), trained on MiG-29s. On entering the newly-created Moldovan Air Force, they all - together with the commander of the whole service, Maj. Nichola Bragish (later to become the Moldovan Defense Secretary) - were advanced in rank. The quality of their training was initially put under question, but the former CO of the 624. IAP, Col. Viktor Kalinin, stated in an interview: "They served well, especially Russu, who was an excellent pilot."

Despite the acquisition of so many MiG-29s, planning to establish a single "rapid response" brigade and a small anti-terror unit in the first place, the Moldovan government was still rather interested in acquiring more Mi-8MT helicopters, and was actively searching some in different former Soviet republics. Nevertheless, without money they were not successful, and the only helicopters the Moldovan military was to operate were eight Mi-8MTs, probably left behind by one of the former Soviet Army flights based in the area. Also about a dozen of An-2s, as well as few An-12, An-26, An-32, An-72 transports were found left behind by the retreating Russians or taken over from different civilian companies and institutions, including the local agrar aviation (the larger transports were most probably taken directly from the former Soviet Transport Aviation, even if it is questionable if any were indeed based in Moldova before the war: the only military airfield in the area was Tiraspol, and this was out of the reach of the Moldovan authorities due to being on the "wrong" side of the Dnestr River). All the aircraft and helicopters were stationed on the airfield near Chisinau, Moldovan capitol.

Row of MiG-29s in full Moldovan AF colors, seen sometimes during the mid-1990s. If all reports about them should be taken seriously, some of these aircraft saw service by no less but three or four different air forces so far! (via Tom Cooper)


Artwork of the ex-V-MF and ex-MFARM MiG-29 "White 03" as seen on the photo above, showing details of the camouflage pattern - which was quite worn out by the time the plane ended in US hands. (Artwork by Tom Cooper)


Fulcrums vs. 14th Army

Before the work on the creation of the Moldovan military could get very far, tensions with the Russians increased, foremost as an ever larger number of Moldovan refugees was arriving over Dnestr, while the Russian paramilitary and troops of the 14th Army repeatedly refused to even pull back behind the river. The Moldovans then decided to take over the bridges. One of the first clashes occurred at Dubasari, on 2 March 1992, when the Moldovans attempted to bring the local bridge under their control. In a short but sharp clash the Russians captured one of Moldovan BTR-80s: two Romanian citizens that were captured with the vehicle were subsequently shot.

T-64s of the 59th Guards Division are known to have for the first time been deployed in combat in May 1992. “Privatised” by Russian officers that have quit their service, they were deployed during another battle at Dubasari, that ended with a fiasco for Russians, who lost one of their T-64s to an unknown anti-tank weapon. Two subsequent Russian counterattacks – supported by an equivalent of two T-64 companies – were spoiled as well, when Moldovans stopped them using Molotov-cocktails in street fighting.

Hap-hazard deployment and poor coordination with other units resulted in heavy losses of Russian armour. Except for several knocked-out “privatized” T-64s (they officially belonged to the 14th Army but were actually operated by local “mechanized brigades” of Cossacks and other para-military organizations), and despite deployment of at least a battery of 2S3 “Akacia” self-propelled howitzers, together with BTR-70 and MT-LB APCs, the Russians have lost a number of combat vehicles during these battles, including several MT-LB APCs equipped with a makeshift turret for ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns, carried on the rear deck, but also a number makeshift “tanks” built on MT-LB-chassis (actually MT-LBs with additional steel-platting and sand-bags added on front and the sides). Most of Russian “tanks”, namely, were actually KamAz and trucks of other type, “armoured” by addition of steel plates on front and sides (one of these was armed with UV-57-16 rocket launchers, taken from Mi-4 helicopters!), which proved particularly vulnerable to all sorts of defensive fire – especially RPG-7s, available in abundance.

A particularly typical story for deployment of Russian armour was the fate of three T-64s “captured” from a Russian Army garrison that was blocked by the “Transnistrian Women’s Committee” since several days, on 20 June 1992. All three vehicles were immediately rushed into fighting, together with five other T-64s, and deployed in attempt to capture Bendery.

When the T-64s moved over the bridge to support an infantry attack on Bendery, Russian troops misidentified own tanks and retreated believing they were about to come under attack by Moldovan tanks. Without support of infantry, T-64s were “easy meat” for Moldovans: two were destroyed (one by a hit from 100mm MT-12 Rapira anti-tank gun; another was hit in the turret and then set afire), and two other damaged (one by RPG-hits into tracks, while the other was hit in engine compartment and set afire, forcing the crew to abandon it; the crew of the later vehicle was killed by machine-gun fire seconds later). In exchange, according to Russian sources, the Moldovans suffered a loss of eleven armoured vehicles, two MT-12 Rapira guns, two ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns, five military vehicles and 80 killed in this battle: the two damaged Russian T-64s were recovered and later pressed into service again.

Transnistrian road block in the Dubasari region. The area saw some of the most fiercest battles of this war, fought for possession of the Dubasari dam - used also as a bridge - and power facility. (Photo: transnistria.md via Alexandru Stratulat)


One of Russian T-64BVs as seen after fierce battles on the Benderi bridge - obviously knocked out by Moldovan anti-tank fire while attempting to break through from Tiraspol to Bendery. (via Alexandru Stratulat)


By late June 1992, after several new battles and OSCE-negotiated cease-fires, the Russian 14th Army threatened to break out of several bridgeheads and drive deeper into Moldova. Realizing that it lacked the power to even push the Russians back over Dnestr - not to talk about bringing the whole country under control or disarm the Russians - the Moldovan government then ordered the destruction of all the bridges, so to make it impossible for the Russians to continue their attacks deeper into Moldova. The Moldovan Air Force has got the order to attack the bridge spanning Dnestr between the cities of Bendery and Tiraspol, where there was no chance for troops on the ground to reach the target. On 22 June 1992, four MiG-29s were prepared for start. Two were to be flown by Russu and Neburak, and armed with six OFAB-250 bombs each. Daranuts and Popovitch were to cover them flying a single MiG-29UB (the former "Blue 62", now re-painted into "White 61").

At 1915hrs, the three planes appeared over Bendery and attacked the bridge. The target was only slightly damaged as no direct hits were scored, but one of the bombs went astry and hit a house nearby, killing several civilians inside. Russian sources admit that this attack caused panic in Tiraspol, but do not reveal any additional information about its effects. Indeed, the appearance of Moldovan MiGs took the Russians completely by surprise. Nevertheless, the 14th Army reacted swiftly by activating its air defence units. On the next day, two MiGs attacked the large oil terminal at Blishniy Hutor, near Tiraspol, and this time the Russians obviously fired back, as the following radio communication between one S-125 (SA-3) SAM-site and the HQs of the 14th Army was monitored:
- "Azimuth 51. Distance 30 (km). Height 1.000. High-speed target!"
In the HQ of the 14th Army, Col. Dobrynsky responded:
- "Get them!"
Several seconds later, the commander of the SAM-battery responded:
- "Explosion at the height of 3.000. The target on the radar-screen split into two parts. One can assume the target was hit!"

Although the Russians claimed a kill, none of the MiGs was hit: not only that no wreckage fell on the eastern side of Dnestr (except that some SPECFOR troops of the 14th Army later brought an antenna supposedly taken from MiG-29, explaining they "found it on the other beach"), or that the cloud-cover prevented a direct observation of the results, but also the Moldovan government denied that its air force flew any kind of combat operations.

In fact, during the the following few days the Russian units registered at least 20 other flights of Moldovan MiG-29s, none of these appeared anywhere near Blishniy Hutor. Except MiG-29s, the Moldovan Mi-8s also saw some use, foremost for transporting troops around the battlefields. Several times they came under fire from the Russian units, it is known that in late June 1992 one of them was damaged by ground fire: it landed at Chisinau with 42 bullet-holes and a wounded crew.

One of eight Mi-8MTs operated by the Moldovan AF seen at the apron of the Kishinev airfield. In addition to the "02", there are at least two more Mi-8s that wear camouflage colours, including "01" and "03". Their colours should be very similar to that seen on "02". Interestingly, the later is not wearing the national insignia on the underside of fuselage, as this was the case with other two Mi-8s, (Alexandru Stratulat)


The roundel and the fin flash of the Moldovan Air Force, as in use since spring of 1992. The fin flash is now applied to some An-72 transports and few helicopters. (Alexandru Stratulat)


In the evening of one of the last days in June 1992, the air defence units of the 14th Army were alerted for a "massed night attack" of Moldovan helicopters, after their radars detected numerous targets at low speed and level approaching. The assumption was that the Moldovan helicopters would be approaching for an attack. This never materialized, however: what happened was that a crew of a Romanian An-24 transport became disoriented during a night flight to Chisinau and then entered the Ukrainian airspace. The aircraft was intercepted by Ukrainian MiG-29s and Su-27s, and in order to evade these released a great cloud of chaff that was then blown by the wind towards Tiraspol. Clearly the slow-moving chaff created a large radar target, which the Russian radar operators misinterpreted. Fortunately, the mistake was recognized in time and no SAMs were fired.

Nevertheless, few days later the Russians did claim to have shot down a Romanian An-24 - by SA-14 MANPADs, fired by the troops of what was now the "Dnestr Republic National Guard". The Romanians denied to have lost any aircraft over Moldova, and indeed no losses of any kind of Romanian transport aircraft - civilian or military - for June 1992 are known.

And still, by 28 June a unit of Russian Air Force stationed at Krim (in the Ukraine) was then prepared to participate in the war by establishing a blockade of the Moldavian airspace (several former pilots of this unit later claimed to have encountered Moldovan MiG-29s in the skies, and shot several of them down), while the air defence units of the 14th Army were re-positioned so to cover the whole front and thus deny the aircraft and helicopters of the Moldovan AF the possibility to participate more actively in the fighting on the ground.

These measures were of no great significance for the outcome of the war any more, as an OSCE-negotiated cease-fire became effective on the same day, bringing an end to the fighting.

Russian "Cossacks" in Transnistria, with an improvised APC, apparently a KamAZ truck with steel plates for protection and (probably) a RPK machine-gun on the top. The Russian "Cossack" units also used a number of Ural trucks, with ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns mounted on flat-beds, similar to ones used by Russian troops in Afghanistan and Chechnya. (Photo: transnistria.md via Alexandru Stratulat)


Results of the War

The situation in Moldova remains tense and the Russians are still in control of the areas east of Dnestr. The territory controlled by them is meanwhile known for widespread corruption and organized crime, the masterminds of which are spreading their tentacles also into considerable parts of Moldavia. The OSCE initiated repeated negotiations: during the Istanbul Summit, in 1999, Moscow agreed to pull out its last 1.500 troops and all military property from the Transistrian region by 2002. The chances for a peaceful re-union of Moldavia remain low, however: Moscow and Tiraspol are deliberately dragging the withdrawal of Russian weapons and ammunition. Russia, which exercises a real control over Transnistrian region through the presence of its military (as well as the fact that most of Transnistrian leaders are Russian citizens and former officers of the 14th Army), failed so far to transform local authorities, even if there were attempts to turn it into another Russian enclave like that of Kaliningrad Oblast (former East Prussia). On the contrary, Russian nationalists and criminals remain determined to keep Transistrian region under their control, and in 2005 the Deputy Speaker of the Russian State Duma, Sergeiy Baruin, reinforced the Russian position that Moldova and Transnistria are two different states. Without stronger involvement of Western powers, the situation is very unlikely to change: once Romania joins the European Union, the scene of this conflict is going to move directly to the EU’s new eastern border.

Romanian Involvement

In June and July 1992 there were numerous Russian reports about the Romanian involvement on the Moldovan side. The Russians reported that Romanians would be flying Moldovan MiGs, and that Romania was actively supporting the Moldovan war effort. In fact, most of such reports were based on the fact that Romanian is the native language in Modova, so the Russians could not hear any other language when listening to Moldovan communications. The Romanian authorities denied any kind of involvement in Moldova, but it is obvious that there were various kinds of contacts between Bucharest and Chisinau. One of these resulted in a barter agreement, along which the Moldovans exchanged one of their MiG-29s for a few dozens of BTR-60PB and BTR-70 armoured personnel carriers. The former were considered old and hard to maintain by the Romanians, who were eager to get their hands on one of “Fulcrum Cs” from original Russian stocks – and especially its active jammer equipment.

This MiG-29 (serialled “53” in service with the Romanian Air Force) arrived at Mihail Kogalniceanu AB on 11 September 1992. To a (quite nasty) surprise of Romanian personnel, the jamming unit was missing: it was replaced by led ballast. Obviously, the Russians removed the jammer from all the MiG-29s they have had to leave back in Moldova (it is very likely that the Americans experienced a similar disappointment when they purchased a number of these aircraft, in 1997 – see bellow for details).

It is quite certain that the Romanians have offered also other kind of assistance, especially in the form of maintenance for Moldovan MiG-29s and Mi-8s, but through supplies of ammunition and different equipment as well.

Wholesale of MiGs

Meanwhile, the Moldovan government repeatedly attempted to get rid of its remaining MiG-29s. In 1994 one example was donated to Romania, and at between four and six were delivered to South Yemen. One was reportedly lost and another badly damaged during the war between North and South Yemen - when they were flown by Moldovan and Iraqi mercenaries - but all the survivors should have been returned to Moldova afterwards. On 23 June 1997 the USA and Moldova signed a Cooperative Threat Reduction accord on 23 June 1997, which authorised the USA to purchase 21 of the MiG-29s, together with 500 associated R-73 air-to-air missiles: in October of the same year several USAF C-17s landed at Chisinau and loaded the aircraft and weapons in question. Although widely believed to have been purchased by the USA in order to make them unavailable to "rogue" states, in fact the USAF was foremost interested to test and study not only Soviet-built MiG-29, but especially its version equipped for deploying tactical nuclear weapons.

Some reports indicate, that the ten MiG-29s originally delivered to Eritrea, in 1998, came also from Moldova, but this was never confirmed. On the contrary, six MiG-29s remain in the country and the government is still repeatedly offering them up for sale – even if all are inoperational now.

Moldovan MiG-29UB "White 61" while still in Moldova. (Alexandru Stratulat)


Like most of the other Moldovan MiG-29s, this UB "White 61" ended in the USA. Today, this aircraft is on display at Wright Patterson AFB, as "Blue 62". (Artwork by Tom Cooper)





Post Scriptum

There are frequently questions about the purpose of the sale of Moldovan MiG-29s to the USA. One of the best explanations so far was published in the Airman Magazine, volume 1998, in the following article by Tech. Sgt. Pat McKenna.

The United States can't pass up a good deal any more than a garage sale groupie. So when the Republic of Moldova put 21 MiG-29 dual-role fighters - capable of carrying nuclear weapons - on the auction block last October, the Pentagon snatched them up before bargain hunters from unfriendly countries could get their paws on them.

Under terms of the agreement, the United States and Moldova won't disclose the purchase price of the jets. Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, however, said, "it was quite reasonable."

The Pentagon pounced on the planes after learning Iran had inspected the jets and expressed an interest in adding them to their inventory. "It was on their shopping list. And we are very happy to have them in our hands rather than the Iranians'," Cohen said.

ImMiGrating to America
Funding for the sale came from the Defense Department's Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which removes weapons of mass destruction from former Soviet states, hence stemming their flow to rogue states. Moldova made the deal because they could no longer afford to fly the jets, which guzzle gas like a 1966 Cadillac Coupe DeVille. "Not only couldn't the Moldovans afford the fuel bill, they couldn't keep up with the maintenance costs either," said Capt. Michael Davison, who led the team recovering the MiGs. "Their aircrews and maintainers hadn't been paid for almost six months."

Davison and a team of 40 airmen, including engineers, aerial port personnel and security forces, spent 24 days last October and November at Markuleshti Air Base in Moldova, packing up and shipping the jets, missiles and equipment. Enlisted members composed a majority of the team, representing several commands and agencies like the Air Intelligence Agency, Air Mobility Command, and U.S. Air Forces in Europe. "The Moldovans were shocked that we allowed enlisted technicians, especially women, to put their hands on the aircraft," Davison said. "They just don't do that there."

Moldova rests on the Black Sea, wedged between Romania and Ukraine. The cash-strapped former Soviet state - about the size of Maryland - relies on agriculture as its chief resource, and has fallen on hard times. "Things we took for granted, they didn't have, like running water or heat in their buildings. I was cold the whole time I was there," said Davison, who hails from Mansfield, Mass. "Despite the conditions and their circumstances, the Moldovans bent over backwards for us; they were very gracious."

From Oct. 20 to Nov. 2, 1997, loadmasters and aerial port experts squeezed two MiGs apiece, sans wings and tails, into the cargo holds of C-17 Globemaster III transports from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. The Charleston airlifters delivered the MiGs to the National Air Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton, Ohio. "When the last MiG was loaded in Moldova, the base commander there, who was this bear of man, turned his head away and cried," Davison said. "It was tough to watch. The MiG pilots knew it was best for their country, but they were sad to see them go."

Behind the Iron Canopy
Now, the Fulcrums sit grounded, in various stages of disassembly in hangars scattered across Wright-Patterson. In one hangar, formerly occupied by the 906th Fighter Group, eight MiG-29s, which are about the same size as the Navy's F-18, look as worn and weather-beaten as a New Mexico windmill. If you swiped your hand across the fuselage of one of the jets, it'd come away green. The Moldovans touched up the planes with spray paint. "They weren't too concerned about looks," Davison said, "but how they flew."

NAIC engineers will comb over the Fulcrums, literally putting the jet under the microscope. Huddled around one of the Fulcrum cockpits, two Air Force sergeants dissected the jet's avionics, shaking down its electronic innards. If the NAIC can discover how the Fulcrum works, Air Force pilots might gain an edge if they face the Fulcrum in future combat. The MiG-29 is a widely exported aircraft, flown by the usual suspects like Iraq, Iran, North Korea and Cuba. According to Davison, it's one of the leading threats to U.S. air operations challenging our F-15s and F-16s.

"Getting the Fulcrum C was huge," said Davison, an aeronautical engineer by trade. "These are the first indigenous Fulcrums we've seen up close and personal.
"Now we get to see things we haven't seen before. We get to put our fingers on them and thoroughly evaluate them," he said. "It's a unique opportunity. We can find out its weaknesses and limitations, and pass that on to the war fighter so they can defeat them."

The NAIC is the Air Force's single, integrated intelligence production centre, and the DOD's primary producer of foreign air and space intelligence. Its mission, dating back to 1917 and the Army Signal Corps' Foreign Data Section at McCook Field in Dayton, is to assess and evaluate the air and space threat from potential enemies, ensuring American troops aren't surprised on the battlefield. Davison works as the chief engineer in the centre's foreign materiel exploitation facility: a 35,000 square-foot building boasting a 50-ton crane, where teams of techno-investigators reverse engineer, test and analyze captured or purchased foreign high-tech air and space gadgets and gizmos.

On the Fulcrum, engineers and technicians will scour the plane and study every subsystem, searching for the best way to beat the MiG in combat. "We'll find out how [the avionics] work and what frequencies they use," Davison said. "We'll learn everything we can about the airplane."

According to Gen. Michael E. Ryan, Air Force chief of staff, the service will fly a "few" of the jets to learn more about their aerial capabilities. He denied reports, however, that the Air Force might use the jets to form a Red aggressor squadron, pitting the MiGs against American fighters in mock dogfights.

So what's next? Davison wouldn't elaborate on what's on his wish list, saying, "We're interested in all foreign hardware." However, he wouldn't mind running his magnifying glass over the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker, flown by the Russian home defence interceptor force, Kazakhstan, several other former Soviet states and China.

Anybody want to make a deal?


Of the 21 Fulcrums the United States bought, 14 were the frontline Fulcrum C's, equipped with radar that can work in 16 different frequencies, an active radar jammer in its spine and were nuclear capable, six older A's and one B-model two-seat trainer.

Along with the Fulcrums, aircraft test equipment and a supply of spare parts, the United States also received 507 air-to-air missiles (albeit not all of these were from Moldova), including 344 AA-8 Aphids, 112 AA-11 Archers and 51 AA-10 Alamos.

The "Blue 62" was one of six MiG-29UBs inherited by the Moldovans from the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet. In Moldovan service, the aircraft was re-serialled into "White 61" (and also repainted in Moldovan national colors for a display in front of the President Snegur). This MiG-29UB carries the serial number 50903012038, was rolled out on the assembly line at Factory Number 21, in Gorkiy, on 31 December 1988. It saw extensive service, accumulating some 600 hours - including several combat sorties during the fighting with Russians, in 1992 - by 1997, when it was purchased by the USA. It is now displayed - re-pained in its former Soviet colors - in front of the National Air Intelligence Center, at Wright Patterson AFB, USA. (US DoD)





Moldovan Court to look into MiG Sales to USA


On 27 June 2005, a court in Chisinau met for the first hearings of the case against Valery Pasat, external relations advisor to the chief of RAO UES, ex-defense minister and director of Moldova's information and security service.

Pasat was detained in Chisinau, on 11 March 2005, and seven days later charged by the Moldovan general prosecutor's office wth abuse of authority when concluding the sales agreement for 21 MiG-29 fighters with the USA. The prosecution maintains that Pasat exceeded his powers, for the aircrafts could not be sold without being included into the privatization program, and puts the resulting damage at USD 55.7m.




News related to Moldovan Air Force

(prepared by Alexandru Stratulat)


On 7 June 2004, the special group of Moldovan National Army's 31 combat engineers embarked on a regular task of destroying ammunition with expired storage life. Three quarters of this group are professional officers who have taken part in the international operations in Iraq, since 2003.

Until August 2004, they have reportedly destroyed near 4.000 ammunition items and 220 warheads for S-75 and S-200 SAMs, together with 600 shells calibre 152mm.

The Ministry of Defense explained the destruction of this ammunition is carried out inthe framework of the National Army reform, which works in accordance with international mechanisms for security and stability in Southeastern Europe. Deputy Minister of Defense, Brig.Gen. Ion Coropcean, stated, the destruction is also aiming at ensuring better security to military depots, as well as the population living nearby. Some of the ammunition was manufactured 25-30 years ago, and its storage was meanwhile simply unsafe. Instead of destroyed missiles, Moldovan anti-aircraft units will be re-equipped with up-to-date, mobile and efficient types of weapons that are cheaper to maintain and require fewer personnel to operate.

In 2004 and 2005 the Moldovan Air force received a number of refurbished light transport and utility aircraft. One of these, a Wilga 35, crashed on 27 May, 2005, during a training flight, killing a crew of four (including two pilots and two mechanics). The last action of the two pilots was to divert their falling plane from the training ground bellow them, where a number of young recruits were involved in exercises.

According to subsequent reports by officials, a governmental commission investigating into the tragedy stated in a preliminary report that the cause of the crash was probably a technical failure. Commission chairman, Deputy Minister of Defense, Ion Coropcean, reported to Prime Minister Vasily Tarlev that, presumably, the engine slowed down or even stopped when the plane was flying a manoeuvre, and that this could lead to a crash.

The Vilga 35 crashed during a scheduled training flight for an air show that was to be held at Marculesti, on 28 May. Previously, the aircraft had successfully undergone various technical tests in different flight regimes.




Order of Battle, Camouflage, Colours, Serials and Markings


Fortele Armate ale Republicii Moldova (Armed Forces of the Republic of Moldova)
- Transport Squadron, based at Chisinau, equipped with one Tu-134A-3, one Il-20, two An-72s, one An-24, one Yak-40, ten An-2s, and a single PZL-104 Wilga

- Helicopter Squadron, based at Chisinau, equipped with eight Mi-8MTVs




Bibliography


This feature is based entirely on own research, supported by various reports from Russian “Izvestiya”, French “Agence France Presse” and some other news agencies, as well as reports about the war in Moldova published in Österreichische Militärzeitschrift (various volumes from years 1992, 1993, and 1994).





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