Last June, a Romanian fighter jet crashed in a wheat field along the country’s Black Sea coast. The fighter was participating in a Romanian and Bulgarian military exercise when it experienced a major engine malfunction, forcing the pilot to eject. The crash of a NATO country’s jet may sound like a freak accident, but in this case, it is anything but. The plane that went down was not a modern fighter jet, but a Soviet-era MiG-21 from a fleet of aging Soviet fighters that has experienced a litany of accidents. At any given moment less than half of this fleet is operational. This incident highlights a broader issue: The militaries of NATO’s former communist members remain reliant on Soviet-era equipment, leaving them in pressing need of overhaul.
The above excerpt was originally published in War on the Rocks.
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