Poland First to Fulfill Ukraine’s Urgent Requests for Warplanes

Poland has become the first NATO member to fulfil the Ukrainian government's increasingly urgent requests for warplanes, with President Andrzej Duda announcing the transfer of four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine in the coming days.[0] Duda said the remaining aircraft needed servicing and would be supplied later, with Poland replacing the planes with South Korean FA-50 fighters and American F-35 jets.[1]

Ukraine has long requested warplanes to fight Russian forces, with Slovakia, Finland and the Netherlands all having said they would consider supplying the country with aircraft.[2] However, the US and UK have so far refused to supply their F-16s and Typhoon combat aircraft, respectively, on the grounds that they require too much training and ground support.[3]

The UK is exploring the possibility of supplying RAF Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 1 fighter jets to European MiG-29 operators, so the Soviet-era aircraft can, in turn, be gifted to Ukraine.[2] Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov has said that the success of the Ukrainian counteroffensive would hinge on forcing the Russian military on to the defensive, and the supply of fighter jets would accelerate the liberation of Ukrainian territory.[4]

Although Slovakia has announced its intention to give Ukraine their retired MiGs, Duda has not indicated if other nations will be following suit.[5] Poland was also the first NATO nation to provide Ukraine with German-made Leopard 2 tanks.[6]

The US has turned down Ukraine’s request for F-16 fighter jets, saying it would take too long to train Ukrainian pilots on them, and maintenance and logistics would be too complicated to manage during an ongoing conflict.[7]

However, the Soviet-designed MiG-29s are less advanced than the American-made F-16s, and Ukraine would need additional training to operate them.[8] According to Duda, the MiGs had been operational for 30 years, but were still “still in working order”.[3] The president declared that additional Polish MiGs were undergoing servicing and repair in order to be delivered to Ukraine.[3]

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has said that “so far, everyone has agreed that it’s not the time to send fighter jets”.[9]

It remains to be seen whether other countries will follow Poland’s lead.[3]

0. “U.S. not against other countries sending fighters jets to Ukraine – Kirby” Ukrinform, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.ukrinform.net/rubric-ato/3682517-us-not-against-other-countries-sending-fighters-jets-to-ukraine-kirby.html

1. “Poland to launch MiG-29 deliveries to Ukraine within days” Defense News, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2023/03/16/poland-could-launch-mig-29-deliveries-to-ukraine-within-days/

2. “Swapping MiG-29s With Typhoons, UK Mulls Transfer Of Its Eurofighters To Allies To Help Ukraine With Combat Jets” EurAsian Times, 15 Mar. 2023, https://eurasiantimes.com/swapping-mig-29s-with-typhoons-uk-mulls-transferring

3. “Poland to deliver fighter jets to Ukraine in major escalation of military backing” The Guardian, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/mar/16/ukraine-poland-fighter-jets-mig-29

4. “Poland Sending MiG-29 Jets to Ukraine Could Be Turning Point” TIME, 16 Mar. 2023, https://time.com/6263986/poland-mig-29-fighter-jets-ukraine/

5. “Poland to become first Nato country to supply fighter jets to Ukraine” upday Polska, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.upday.com/uk/poland-to-become-first-nato-country-to-supply-fighter-jets-to-ukraine

6. “Poland to be 1st NATO member to give Ukraine fighter jets” KTRK-TV, 16 Mar. 2023, https://abc13.com/poland-fighter-jets-ukraine-russia/12963628/

7. “Poland will send fighter jets to Ukraine, the first NATO country to do so” WBUR News, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.wbur.org/npr/1163895110/poland-will-send-fighter-jets-to-ukraine-the-first-nato-country-to-do-so

8. “Poland Sending 4 Fighter Jets To Ukraine—A First For NATO” Forbes, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicholasreimann/2023/03/16/poland-sending-4-fighter-jets-to-ukraine-a-first-for-nato/

9. “Poland poised to become first NATO nation to supply Ukraine with fighter jets” Express, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1747297/ukraine-jets-russia-zelensky-poland