The Moldovan Ministry of Defense announced it had received an air defense radar system from France on December 20, 2023.
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moldova, its neighboring nation, has encountered persistent threats to its security. Repeated violations of its airspace have occurred, with cruise missiles launched from Russian warships in the Black Sea targeting Ukrainian cities. Notably, on October 31, 2022, debris from a Russian missile intercepted by Ukrainian air defense fell in the Moldovan village of Naslavcea.
In September 2023, France and Moldova signed an agreement to strengthen military cooperation. One of the main focuses of the bilateral cooperation was to reinforce the air defense capabilities of Moldova.
The first decision was the acquisition of a Ground Master 200 (GM200) multi-mission medium-range radar system, manufactured by the French company Thales, and designed to detect low to high-altitude air targets including missiles, artillery rounds, or drones.
With a surveillance span of 250 kilometers (155 miles), the GM200 can effectively target threats within a 100-kilometer (62-mile) range when integrated with an air defense system like the Aster 30 SAMP/T (also known as MAMBA). This same equipment was supplied to Ukraine by France to reinforce the nation’s defense against Russia.
The GM200 radar has now been received by the Moldovan National Army, the country’s Ministry of Defense has reported.
“In the current security context, the safety of our citizens is a priority.
The latest incidents of violation of our country’s airspace have brought back to the authorities the urgent need to strengthen the defense capabilities of the Republic of Moldova.
This system, dedicated to monitoring the entire airspace of the country, marks the culmination of a series of measures undertaken to equip the National Army in accordance with international standards.”Moldovan Minister of Defense Anatolie Nosatîi
Currently, the Moldovan Air Force faces limited capabilities to deal with an air threat, attributed to its modest size and budgetary constraints. Operating a limited fleet of Soviet-manufactured aircraft, including helicopters and transport planes, Moldova’s President Maia Sandu has persistently urged NATO nations to provide her country with air defense systems.
Moldova: Putin’s next target?
Moldova is additionally concerned about its sovereignty, with the Russian military presence in the separatist region of Transnistria intensifying the threat.
During a speech to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in late November 2023, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused NATO and the EU of thwarting Russian efforts aimed at resolving the conflict between the Dniester Republic and Moldova.
“Moldova is essentially being readied as the next victim in the hybrid war that the West unleashed against Russia.”Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
Ukrainian and Moldovan intelligence fear that Russian forces may seize Chisinau International Airport (KIV) to use as a base for attacking Moldova and western Ukraine. This tactic, reminiscent of the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia capturing Prague Airport (PRG), was also attempted near Kyiv at Hostomel Airport (GML) during Russia’s initial offensive on Ukraine, resulting in the destruction of the Antonov An-225 Mriya, the world’s largest aircraft.
Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu disclosed in a TV interview that authorities have been prepared to sabotage the airport runway since the start of the Ukraine invasion.
As part of ongoing initiatives to strengthen Moldova’s defense, various EU member states have committed to supporting and fortifying the nation’s limited ground forces. Germany, for example, has recently provided Moldova with Piranha III armored personnel carriers acquired from Denmark. France is also playing an active role there, delivering an initial batch of military aid to Chisinau in November 2023. This package, transported by a French Air and Space Force A400M transport aircraft, encompassed individual equipment, infantry weapons, and ammunition.