Ukraine tries to stop the Russian invasion with weapons donated by some NATO countries. A few days ago, Spain sent a shipment of more than 1,000 grenade launchers specially designed to shoot down battle tanks, but it is not enough at all. The latest movements are now focused on reinforce the ukrainian air force that have very limited units and pilots specialized exclusively in Russian fighters.
This has become a big problem due to the fact that not many NATO countries have these aircraft and the impossibility —for a matter of time— of learning to fly devices from the United States or other European countries. This positions Poland as the best candidate to donate Russian MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine in exchange for providing him with American fighters.
To avoid a direct confrontation between Poland and Russia over the dispatch of aircraft, the proposed scheme is that the Poles deliver the MiG-29s to the United States and then they will deliver them to Ukraine. “The authorities of the Republic of Poland […] are ready to deploy, immediately and free of charge, all of their MiG-29 aircraft at Ramstein Air Base [en Alemania] and make them available to the US government,” they published in a statement.
Something that the United States has not particularly liked given that Poland’s approach is to use a US air base in Germany, from where the fighters will have to leave for Ukraine. Making the operation even more complex and provoking the rejection —for the time being— of the Pentagon.
Soviets vs Russians
The Mikoyan MiG-29 was the Soviet answer to the F-15 and F-16, then the backbone of the United States Air Force. With an original design dating back to the early 70s, the MiG-29 with its different versions and upgrades have become the benchmark for countries like Ukraine.
It was conceived as an air superiority fighter specially designed to shoot down other fighters and for this it was endowed with excellent maneuverability and agility when it enters combat. Since it entered service in July 1982 and its success in export programs, the combat record of the Mikoyan fighter is almost endless. He has participated in Syria, Iraq, in the Balkans and currently in the invasion of Ukraine.
The MiG-29 has a length of 17.32 meters with a wingspan of 11.36 and a height of 4.73. Its 18-ton maximum takeoff weight includes a pair of afterburner engines capable of drive it to 2,400 kilometers per hour (more than 2 times the speed of sound) and at a maximum altitude of 18,000 meters, according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
That same pair of Soviet engines penalizes it, in large part, in the autonomy section that can stay below 1,000 kilometers depending on the armament configuration. In this last section, the fighter has a 30-millimeter cannon, different models of air-to-ground rockets and air-to-air missiles.
Before the invasion, the number of Ukrainian MiG-29 fighters varied between 37 and 70, according to the source, all inherited from the Soviet Union. Very few units compared to the 240 that Russia would have operational. For its part, Poland has some 28 active units that, if all goes well, could end up in the Ukrainian army. Other NATO nations with MiG-29 aircraft are Bulgaria (11 units) and Slovakia (10 units).
“At the same time, Poland requests the United States to provide us with used aircraft with the corresponding operational capabilities. Poland is ready to immediately establish the conditions for the purchase of the aircraft,” the Polish government statement continued. No trace of Ukraine or Russia in the statement.
At the moment, nothing is known about those “used planes” referred to in the government press release. Poland currently has about 48 modernized F-16 Block 52+ fighters —quite superior to the MiG-29— which could be reinforced by units from the United States and as payment for Ukrainian aid.
The Lockheed Martin F-16 is a single-engine fighter developed in the late 1960s to replace the F-4 Phantom II that served in the Vietnam War. It became active in 1978 and since then more than 4,000 units of its different versions have been built, some of them with very advanced technology and immersed in important updating programs.
Another of the possibilities that are handled in the face of the loss of air capacity, is that NATO countries operate directly in the country during the next few years, as stated The War Zone. Some time ago, Poland acquired F-35A units that could arrive as early as 2024.