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Why Romania Abandoned the Mig-29 In Favor Of the Mig-21, And What Is Happening to These Aircraft Now

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Modernized Romanian MiG-29 Sniper, archival photo / Credits: Gerrit Kok
Modernized Romanian MiG-29 Sniper, archival photo / Credits: Gerrit Kok

Ukraine might have another components stocks nearby that might be needed while waiting for the decision on the transfer of the F-16 fighters

The combat biography of the MiG-29 fighter has many specific moments, and one of them is how it happened that Romania decommissioned its aircraft on the very eve of joining NATO, and for a long time used only more "ancient" MiG-21’s, even modernized by the Israeli Elbit Systems.

In 1989-1990, Romania received a total of 21 MiG-29 aircraft from the Soviet Union, of which four were in the UB version. The first flights of the Romanian MiG-29 started already in 1990, 4 aircraft were lost in various accidents, one fighter was purchased in Moldova to compensate for the losses. Thus, at the time of decommissioning in 2023, the Romanian Air Force had 18 MiG-29 aircraft at its disposal.

Read more: ​Analysts Believe russia Could Sell 60 Su-35 in Exchange for Thousands of Drones But It Looks Unlikely
Why Romania Abandoned the Mig-29 In Favor Of the Mig-21, And What Is Happening to These Aircraft Now, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
Romanian MiG-29 / Archival photo from open sources

It seems that after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the military and political leadership of Romania decided to concentrate primarily on maintaining the combat capability of the MiG-21, as the most massive aircraft in the national air force.

Because there is no other way to explain the fact that the country started the joint program with the Israeli Elbit Systems to upgrade the MiG-21 to the LanceR standard back in 1992, but the program to upgrade their MiG-29 to the Sniper standard started only in 1995. It is interesting that the German concern Daimler Chrysler Aerospace became the third partner for the work on the Romanian MIG-29, and in this story the Germans did not involve their russian "partners" from the RSK MiG concern.

Why Romania Abandoned the Mig-29 In Favor Of the Mig-21, And What Is Happening to These Aircraft Now, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
Romanian MiG-29UB / Credits: AirHistory.net

The modernization program of the Romanian MiG-29s to the Sniper standard included work to extend the life of the airframe, installing electromechanical components and a complete update of the on-board equipment. According to this program, only one Romanian MiG-29 with flight number 67 was modernized, which flew for a very short time: the tests of this fighter ended only in 2000, after 2001 this aircraft did not take to the sky at all, and in 2009 became an exhibit of the National Aviation Museum.

Due to economic reasons, the Sniper program was suspended. Romania hoped that it might find buyers for its MiG-29’s, but the plan did not work out. Therefore, all 18 MiG-29 fighters were decommissioned from the Romanian Air Force in 2003, just at the turn when these aircraft needed to be overhauled.

Perhaps the decision to decommission the MiG-29 from the Romanian Air Force was also influenced by the fact that these aircraft did not have a sufficient supply of anti-aircraft missiles.

Why Romania Abandoned the Mig-29 In Favor Of the Mig-21, And What Is Happening to These Aircraft Now, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
Romanian MiG-29 / Credits: Mihai Tanasa twitter profile

In any case, in one of its February 2023 publications, Defense Romania mentions that in 2003-2004, the Romanian Ministry of Defense bought MiG-29 missiles in parallel with the decommissioning of these aircraft. And in all available photos, Romanian aircraft of this type are recorded without missiles at all.

Why Romania Abandoned the Mig-29 In Favor Of the Mig-21, And What Is Happening to These Aircraft Now, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
Romanian MiG-29UB / Credits: the Romanian Air Force

Again, the story of the Romanian MiG-29 appeared in the spring of 2022 again, and in a rather unexpected angle. First, at the end of March 2022, the director of the association of Romanian defense enterprises PATROMILL, Viorel Manole, stated on the air of one of the TV channels that Romania has 18 MiG-29 aircraft with a preserved resource, which could be transferred to Ukraine.

But a week later, as Defense Romania also reported, Defense Minister Vasile Dincu said that Romania does not have any working MiG-29s that could be given to Ukraine, instead there are several buyers for "cannibalized" spare parts from these planes.

Why Romania Abandoned the Mig-29 In Favor Of the Mig-21, And What Is Happening to These Aircraft Now, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
Modernized Romanian MiG-29 Sniper in the exposition of the National Aviation Museum of Romania / Credits: Mihai Tanasa twitter profile

Perhaps, if Romania has not yet sold all its MiG-29s from storage for spare parts, Ukraine has a kind of neighboring "graveyard of spare parts" that might be needed before the decision on the transfer of the F-16 fighters.

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