Air Forces Command
In 1994 the Moldovan air force consisted of 1,300 men organized into one fighter regiment, one helicopter squadron, and one missile brigade. Equipment used by the air force included thirty-one MiG-29 aircraft, eight Mi-8 helicopters, five transport aircraft (including an An-72), and twenty-five SA-3/-5 surface-to-air missiles.
Air Forces represent a category of armed forces acting in and from the airspace and integrate actions undertaken in this area by other categories of military forces. Air Forces include the following types of weapons: aircraft, antiaircraft missiles, radar and anti-aircraft artillery. Air Force Command is the operational independent military unit, with administrative duties. It is also responsible for construction, development and training of Air Force for use as intended. Air Force Command is a public legal entity. It has a seal with the Republic of Moldova State Coat of Arms and its name in the official language.
All air defense and aviation military units are directly subordinated to Air Force Command. Air Force leadership is exercised by the Air Force Command, air group type. In peacetime, the Air Force Command conducts combat service forces and means, training of operationalized forces through applications, training, independent or integrated exercises, international missions, cooperation with other types of forces, as well as activities of airspace management. Air Force Command manages resources (human, material, financial) and conducts the whole work of generation and operationalization of forces necessary to carry out missions within the air space.
During crisis and war time, Air Force Command takes the combat forces under operational subordination and plans, conducts and monitors specific military actions. In case of participation in exercises or international missions in the country and abroad, the Chief of the National Army Main Staff puts at the Air Force Command's disposal operational forces and logistics necessary to carry out the planned missions.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, when there were virtual open-air arms bazaars taking place across the territory of the former USSR, in 1997 the United States Government purchased MiG-29 twenty-one fighter aircraft from the newly independent Republic of Moldova. The Moldovan official who negotiated this sale was then Defense Minister, Valeriu Pasat. This purchase was intended to keep these aircraft out of the hands of potentially hostile regimes. The U.S. Department of Defense purchased the 21 Russian-made MiG-29's from Moldova after reportedly receiving information that Iran was seeking to buy the aircraft. The MiGs soon called the National Air Intelligence Center (NAIC) home, after a long C-17 trip from Markulesht AB, Moldova, to Wright-Patterson AFB, OH.
In March 2005 police arrested former defense minister [and former director of the Information and Security Service] Valeriu Pasat on charges of defrauding the government of millions dollars, by illegally selling fighter jets in 1997 to a the United States. Allegedly, the planes were worth more than the Moldovan Government received for them in the deal approved by Chisinau. The General Prosecutor's Office maintains that transaction inflicted $54 million damage to the Moldovan State by selling the aircraft too cheap. The additional $55 million was supposedly available from another potential customer (widely identified as Iran).
Many observers considered the arrest to be politically motivated, because of Pasat's association with previous government administrations and his vocal support of the opposition Democratic Moldova bloc during the March 2005 election campaign. Pasat maintained that the charges against him were political and linked to his work with those who oppose Moldova's current communist government.
On 17 January 2006, a court sentenced Pasat to 10 years in prison on charges of damaging the state. The conviction followed a civilian court trial held behind closed doors. Observers said the proceedings raised questions about the fairness and independence of the judiciary. On 7 February 2006, the prosecutor general's office opened a second criminal case, accusing Pasat of attempted murder and usurping power. A third criminal case was launched in September 2006 on charges of "weapons smuggling" and abuse of authority. On October 16, an appeals court acquitted Pasat of some of the original charges and reduced his 10-year sentence to five years. On 02 April 2008, the Supreme Court of Justice reversed a July 2007 Chisinau appeals court decision granting amnesty to former defense minister Valeriu Pasat.
In response to the Pasat verdict, the U.S. Embassy in Chisinau issued a statement expressing disappointment and regret over the non-transparent manner in which his trial was conducted, as well as the judge's refusal to admit sworn statements from former U.S. officials directly involved in the matter. Additionally, the European Union recently passed a resolution calling upon the Moldovan authorities to ``ensure that the appeals process [in the Pasat case] will be allowed to proceed in a transparent fashion in accordance with international legal norms.''
After about two years in the remand center, Pasat took refuge in Moscow in July 2007. In July 2009, the Chisinau Court of Appeals examined two of the cases against him, in which he is accused of prejudicing the state by selling military warplanes and rockets, and confirmed again that the former minister was not guilty. The other two cases opened while he was in custody in 2006, in which he is accused of smuggling armament and of attempted coup at the instructions of the Kremlin, were not sent to court. Former minister of defense Valeriu Pasat returned to Moldova on 02 November 2009.
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