Poland to transfer four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine Air Force

Poland will send four of its MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, becoming the first NATO country to send planes to thi country since Russia invaded it on February 24, 2022. Polish President Andrzej Duda said they would be sent in the coming days, and more units to be given in the future.

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Poland to transfer four MiG 29 fighter jets to Ukraine Air Force Polish MiG-29 over Lithuania during a NATO mission in 2015 (Picture source: Bartosz Glowacki)

Other NATO countries are considering sending the Soviet-era planes, which Ukrainian pilots are trained to fly, unlike French Mirages or U.S. F-16s, which Ukraine has been asking for since last year. The U.S. and the UK are already training Ukrainian pilots on NATO-standard aircraft but the U.S. rather speaks about a kind of ‘exploratory’ or ‘evaluation’ of the Ukrainian capabilities. And President Biden has previously ruled out sending jets from the US to Ukraine. In any case, because of the long training times, potential NATO donators have warned that supplying Western jets would only ever be a long-term option.

Polish President Duda said Poland still has around a dozen Soviet-era MiG 29 aircraft in operation. Notice that these MiG-29s have been upgraded to some NATO standards and are now fitted with some more modern types of equipment than the Russian ones.

Yuriy Sak, an adviser to the Ukrainian Defence minister, stressed that Ukraine needs 4th-generation jets, such as F-16s: "They are more universal platforms, they are more capable and of course, they will make Ukrainian air forces more efficient".

Poland acquired its first MiG-29s in the late 1980s, shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The country acquired a total of 32 MiG-29s from the Soviet Union, and later from Russia, with the last delivery taking place in 1998. The MiG-29 served as Poland's primary fighter jet until it was gradually replaced by the F-16 Fighting Falcon in the early 2000s. The Polish Air Force retired its last MiG-29 in 2020, after over 30 years of service.

During its service, the MiG-29 played an important role in Poland's air defense and was also used in several NATO and international military exercises.