Armed Forces

Which of the Polish MiG-29s Could be Sent to Ukraine? [COMMENTARY]

Four Polish Fulcrums undergoing pre-flight checks.
Photo. Jarosław Ciślak/Defence24

Both the President, as well as the PM of Poland announced that the Polish MiG-29 jets will soon be transferred to Ukraine. This ends the 3 decades of service of these valuable and somewhat cult airframes. As the releases suggest that only some of the Polish Fulcrums would be transferred, a question must be asked: which of the jets would be sent to Ukraine?

Until some of the lifecycles ended, and after a series of Fulcrum accidents, Poland used to operate 32 jets as such, across two squadrons. 16 jets were stationed at the 23rd Tactical Air Base in Minsk Mazowiecki (EPMM). That number included 12 jets procured in USSR and 4 aircraft acquired from the Czech Republic in the 1990s. Poland paid for 10 aircraft transferring 11 brand new W-3 Sokół helicopters to the Czech Republic. The remaining five Czech MiGs initially were stationed at Minsk Mazowiecki Tactical Air Base, but as time went by, they were transferred to the 22nd Tactical Air Base in Malbork. There, they became a part of another squadron, along with 10 aircraft bought for a token sum of EUR 1 from Germany.

Read more

The latter jets also referred to as the MiG-29G, were quite troublesome. First, they had been flown hard. Out of 24 jets, only 10 were commissioned, while the remaining ones served as a source of spares or museum pieces. What is even worse, owning these jets led to a reduction in the number of procured F-16C/Ds (from 64 to 48).

The Malbork-based Fulcrums exhibit significant wear, which is proven by the fact that there had been some plans put in place to decommission these aircraft in 2012. These jets also were not subjected to any modernization - apart from cross-unification. A different story applies to jets based in Minsk Mazowiecki. Based on an agreement signed in 2011, these airframes underwent several upgrades at the WZL-2 facility - with new avionics being fitted to them. A modern communications system and MFDs were added in the cockpit, along with a precise navigation system. The cockpit now also features digital video and audio recorders, used to conduct the post-sortie debriefing.

Read more

A similar upgrade was also introduced on 11 Slovak MiG-29 jets between 2004 and 2006. The Slovak Fulcrums received NATO-compliant navigation and communications suites.

It seems that the Polish and Slovak jets may be transferred after they are integrated with the AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles. Efforts as such have been mentioned by the Americans last week, within the context of the Ukrainian combat aircraft. It would be the easiest to implement such an integration, working on jets that remain stationed within the NATO territory.

The agreement announced yesterday is also quite interesting, within the said context. It refers to the maintenance of the MiG-29 simulator located at the Minsk Mazowiecki base - the maintenance services are expected to be rendered continuously until the year 2026. But maybe the simulator will not just be used by the Polish pilots...