Tuesday, May 24, 2022

F-16s For MiG-29 Fighter Jets: US Ready To Support Poland’s Decision To Provide Ukraine With Warplanes To Fight Russia

The US is ready to continue to provide Ukraine with military aid, and is considering assistance to Poland if it decides to hand over warplanes to Kyiv under a swap deal, US State Secretary Antony Blinken said on Sunday.

Earlier in the day, media reported that the United States was looking into a deal under which Poland could supply Ukraine with Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets in return for US-made F-16s.

“We are looking actively now at the question of airplanes that Poland may provide to Ukraine, and looking at how we might be able to backfill it should Poland decide to supply those planes,” he told a briefing in Chisinau.

Blinken added that he cannot speak on the timeline of this question.

On February 24, Russia began a special operation to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine, responding to calls for help from the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics in countering the aggression of Ukrainian troops.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the special operation is targeting Ukrainian military infrastructure only and the civilian population is not in danger. Moscow has repeatedly stressed that it has no plans to occupy Ukraine.

Who Is Supplying Jets To Ukraine?

Earlier as The EurAsian Times reported, Josep Borrell, a Spanish politician who serves as the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, announced on February 27 that the bloc would provide funds to Ukraine to acquire fighter jets from unidentified member states.

European countries operate and manufacture some of the world’s top fighter jets, including the Eurofighter Typhoon, Rafale, and Saab Gripen. Borrell did not specify which type of aircraft would be heading to Ukraine. He did say, however, that they will be the ones that the Ukrainian Air Force is already using.

An expert who did not wish to be cited clarified that the EU will not equip Ukraine with Western fighter jets since the country does not have time to train its pilots for new jets. Providing them with the fighters they’ve already flown is the quickest method to get them going.

Russia MiG-29
File Image: Russia MiG-29

Borrell also said that Ukraine had informed the EU “they need the kind of fighting jets that the Ukrainian army is able to operate, some member states have these kinds of planes.”

The Ukrainian Air Force’s fighter fleets are made up of MiG-29 Fulcrums and Su-27 Flankers, both designed by the Soviet Union. Su-27s are not used by any European Union countries.

A Ukrainian Su-27 Flanker and MiG-29 Fulcrum escort - NARA & DVIDS Public Domain Archive Public Domain Search
A Ukrainian Su-27 Flanker and MiG-29 Fulcrum escort – NARA & DVIDS Public Domain Archive Public Domain Search

This suggests that the transfer of MiG-29 fighter jets has been discussed. Poland, Slovakia, and Bulgaria all still have Fulcrum variants in their fleets. These fighter jets could be easily transported and put into service.

It’s also possible that some other EU members have similar fighter jets stashed away. Even though these jets’ operational capabilities may not be in the best condition, they can still be used as a source of spare parts.

Romania and Croatia, both NATO members, operate older, heavily improved MiG-21 models. Ukraine does not presently operate the MiG-21. However, companies in the nation provide depot service for other countries’ aircraft. These planes might likewise be supplied to the country in an emergency, but the chances are quite low.

Bulgarian Su-25
A Bulgarian Su-25 (Wikimedia Commons)

Even yet, it appears that this is less likely than the transfer of MiG-29s. The same may be said for Poland’s old inventory of Su-22 swing-wing combat fighters, yet if the battle drags on, these types of aircraft may become more appealing.

Bulgaria still operates Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack aircraft, which are also in use in Ukraine and are crucial during the conflict.

Alexandre Krauss, a policy advisor to members of Renew Europe, a “pro-European political group in the European Parliament,” has tweeted on February 28 that these jets will be “flying in Ukraine skies within the hour”. However, he did not divulge the type of jets that are included in the European Union’s military air package.

Similarly, a European diplomat told The Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum that Ukraine was poised to get Russian-made jets from Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Poland. This suggests that MiG-29s, as well as possibly Su-25s, will be delivered soon.

Moreover, as the war with Russia continues, the Ukrainian military stated that it has received a “large batch” of air-to-air missiles from its “Western partners.” The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces announced on Facebook that the newly delivered missiles are “already under the wings” of the country’s fighter jets.

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