Military Aviation

The Pentagon dismisses Polish plan to provide MiG-29 Fulcrum Fighter Jets to be sent to Ukraine

Poland said it will hand over its MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets to the US to be sent to Ukraine, in a move which appeared to take Washington by surprise and was quickly dismissed by the Pentagon.

On Mar. 8, 2022 Poland said it will hand over its MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets to the US to be sent to Ukraine, in a move which appeared to take Washington by surprise and was quickly dismissed by the Pentagon, The Guardian reported.

Poland was “ready to deploy – immediately and free of charge – all their MiG-29 jets to the Ramstein airbase and place them at the disposal of the government of the United States of America,” The Polish foreign minister, Zbigniew Rau said.

But by saying it was not “tenable,” the Pentagon rejected the proposal.

The prospect of the jets departing from the base “to fly into airspace that is contested with Russia over Ukraine raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance,” the US Department of Defense said in a statement.

John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said that “We will continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies about this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it presents, but we do not believe Poland’s proposal is a tenable one.”

For Poland the MiG-29 Russian-made planes could be expendable since the country has been modernizing its aircraft fleet since 2006, when it first started flying F-16s, and in 2020 signed a $4.6 billion deal for 32 F-35s, the first of which will arrive in 2024.

On Mar. 6, 2022 it was reported that the US was still in talks with Poland to potentially backfill their fleet of fighter planes if Warsaw decides to transfer its used MiG-29 aircraft to Ukraine.

Warsaw asked the White House if the Biden administration could guarantee it would provide them with US-made F-16 fighter jets to fill the gap, as Poland weighed sending its warplanes to Ukraine last week.

“Poland requests the United States to provide us with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities,” Rau said in a statement on his ministry’s website. “Poland is ready to immediately establish the conditions of purchase of the planes.”

Rau requested other NATO allies with MiG-29 jets – a reference to Slovakia and Bulgaria – “act in the same vein.”

Poland hoped to mitigate the risk of direct retaliation from Russia by handing the MiG-29 fighter jets to the US.

However, calling the Polish announcement a “surprise move by the Poles,” the US undersecretary of state for political affairs, Victoria Nuland, said it had taken Washington unawares.

“To my knowledge, it wasn’t pre-consulted with us that they plan to give these planes to us,” Nuland told Congress. “I look forward when this hearing is over to getting back to my desk and seeing how we will respond to this proposal of theirs to give the planes to us.”

As we have previously reported, in a historic move, the EU on Feb. 27 said it would take a much more assertive role in funneling weapons and other military equipment from its members to Ukraine, even using €450 million of EU funding to help finance the effort.

Among the weapons there were also MiG-29 fighter jets and Su-25 attack aircraft that the UE in the person of its foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said it intended to donate to Ukraine.

As our contributor and Helion & Company publisher’s editor Tom Cooper explained, Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria are still flying MiG-29s, for example. Ukrainians can fly such jets, even if their communications and IFF have been significantly modified over the time.

But on Feb. 28 Borrell had to publicly backtrack: he acknowledged that even though fighter jets were “part of the request for aid that we received from Ukraine,” the EU did not have sufficient financial means to pay for those airplanes, which would have to be donated “bilaterally” by individual EU countries instead.

Nevertheless, on evening of the same day, a Ukrainian official said pilots had arrived in Poland to receive military aircraft from EU partners. The planes in question were MiG-29 fighter jets.

But the deal stalled out.

In fact, Poland, Bulgaria and Slovakia rejected the idea, and the Ukrainian pilots left empty-handed.

Photo credit: Justin D. Pyle / U.S. Air Force and Jim.van.de.Burgt via Wikipedia

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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