The MiG-29, designated by NATO as the Fulcrum, was once considered one of the most powerful fourth-generation fighters during the Cold War
The MiG-29 is considered to be the first fourth generation fighter designed and developed by the Soviet Union since 1974. The first aircraft entered service in 1982, and was considered a light multirole fighter to perform combat missions in conjunction with the Su-27 fighter. Tracking target and long-range attack were the tasks of the Su-27, while the MiG-29 was responsible for protecting infantry and armored vehicles from enemy air forces. Thereby creating a shield for logistics bases, as well as against enemy aerial reconnaissance.
The MiG-29 has proven the power of a fourth-generation fighter, especially in terms of maneuverability. The fighter featured a forward-set cockpit with a raise fuselage spine, twin engines buried in the fuselage side-by-side and high-mounted wing assemblies with an elegantly contoured wing leading edge. Engine exhaust rings were straddled by rearward-extending booms mounting the twin vertical tail fin assembly. The engines were aspirated by a large pair of rectangular intakes fitted to either side of the forward fuselage.
Two Klimov/Sarkisov RD-33 turbofan engines help the MiG-29 reach a maximum speed of Mach 2.3, equivalent to 2,450 km/h. This makes the MiG-29 faster than the same American fighter model, the F-16. Another advantage of the MiG-29 is that it can take off from field airports, without requiring strict standards on runways.
The MiG-29 was already present in the NATO army. After the merger, the Luftwaffe began to receive batches of MiG-29s that were in the service of the Air Force of the German Democratic Republic previously. This gave American pilots the opportunity to face Fulcrum directly in air force exercises. American pilots realized that in low-speed head-to-head combat, the MiG-29 was not inferior to the F-16. At a range of 64 km, American fighters had the upper hand against Fulcrum. But at a range of 16 km, the US F-16 did not hold the advantage and was left behind if the range was reduced to 8 km.
The MiG-29 also made a strong impression on its ability to carry weapons. The fighter has 7 hard points, can carry a variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons. The main highlight of the combat capabilities of the MiG-29 is the short-range air-to-air missile R-73, which uses an infrared guidance system.
The US owning 21 MiG-29 fighters was a long story. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many new countries became independent, and inherited the arsenal of the former Soviet army. Moldova was one of them – it received a batch of 34 MiG-29s of different variants.
In 1996, the Moldovan government informed the US that it was in contact with Iran about the deal for the purchase of MiG-29s. Before that, the Iranian military also had MiG-29s in service. But the MiG-29C model, with 14 from Moldova, will be an upgraded weapon compared to the older versions. The Bill Clinton administration at the time feared that the MiG-29 might fall into the hands of its enemies, and Tehran would use it as a vehicel of carrying nuclear weapons. For this reason, the US decided to jump in.
In 1997, the US completed a contract to buy 21 MiG-29 fighters with different variants from Moldova, including a batch of 14 MiG-29C series. In return, Moldova received $40 million in cash along with humanitarian aid and nonlethal weapons from the United States.