Israeli pilots who tested out the aircraft were quite impressed. While different from the standard American-made jets they were accustomed to, they reported that the MiG-29 was easy to fly. Its computers for enabling landing if the pilot experienced difficulty were quite noteworthy. This is due to the fact that this system “stabilizes the jet in case the pilot is affected by vertigo disease, and loses his orientation in space,” IAF Magazine noted. “Such systems do not exist in western aircraft, counting on the pilot to handle such situations independently.”
When the Soviet Union collapsed in late 1991, the newly independent states within its former domain inherited enormous stockpiles of weapons the Red Army left behind.
One of the most interesting cases involved the air force of the tiny former Soviet republic of Moldova. The new republic’s inventory consisted of 34 MiG-29 Fulcrums, eight Mi-8 Hip helicopters and a handful of transport aircraft — a sizeable force for such a small state. To put Moldova’s size into perspective, the country’s population is smaller than the metro area of Portland, Oregon.
Moldova couldn’t afford to maintain the fleet and, to make matters worse, was in a deep recession. Meanwhile, the United States feared Moldova would sell the MiG-29s to Iran, which could use them to bolster its own fleet of Fulcrums. Washington was also wary that Moldova might pass the technology to Iran’s rivals since the fleet included 14 MiG-29C variants configured to deliver nuclear weapons.
(Recommended: 5 Turkish Weapons of War Russia Should Fear)
So in 1997, the United States deployed its most powerful tool to get the MiG-29s for itself. That tool … was money. Washington bought 21 of the MiG-29s — including 14 C models, one B model and six A models — and flew them in pieces on C-17 transport planes to Dayton, Ohio.