Poland will be the first NATO country to supply fighter jets to Ukraine

Miguel Ortiz Avatar
polish mig-29
Polish MiG-29. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John E. Lasky) A Polish MiG-29 taxis with its drag parachute deployed (U.S. Air Force)

If a country gets into a war with Russia, they can count on Poland as an ally. Ukraine found this to be true, with Poland being one of, if not the most outspoken supporter of Ukraine in its war with Russia. Since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Poland has pushed to supply Ukraine with artillery, tanks and fighter planes. Although other NATO and allied countries have since supplied military equipment including modern western main battle tanks, Kyiv’s request for fighter jets has gone unanswered until now.

plane similar to ghost of kyiv
Ukrainian Air Force MiG-29 in 2018. A similar plane was credited to the Ghost of Kyiv. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

On March 16, 2023, at a news conference in Warsaw, Polish President Andrezej Duda announced that his government would send four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, becoming the first NATO nation to supply the type to Kyiv. Duda noted that the transfer would take place “in the coming days” after the jets have been fully serviced. The Polish President also said that additional jets would be provided in the future.

goodfellow air force base mig-29
Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas has a MiG-29 on static display (U.S. Air Force)

Formerly part of the Soviet Union, Poland is a unique NATO nation in that it maintains a fleet of Soviet-era MiG-29s, along with Germany. While these fighters were modernized with radios and other systems following Poland’s acceptance into NATO, they retain the same controls from their Soviet days. As a result, Ukrainian pilots and maintainers already trained on the aircraft will easily be able to integrate the Polish MiGs into their fleet.

bulgaria jet with poland fighter jets to ukraine
Bulgaria is another NATO nation that flies Soviet-era MiG-29s (U.S. Air National Guard photo)

In February 2022, Ukraine had an estimated 120 combat-capable aircraft; mainly Soviet-era MiG-29s and Su-27s. Duda noted that Poland has approximately a dozen MiG-29s that are operational and can be sent to Ukraine. He also said that these fighters would be replaced in the Polish Air Force with South Korean FA-50 and American F-35 jets.

two polish mig-29s
Two Polish MiG-29s fly with an American F-15 and B-52 (U.S. Air Force)

Previous attempts by Poland to supply jets to Ukraine were vetoed by other NATO nations, including the United States, fearing an escalation of the war with Russia. However, the US, UK, Germany and other allied nations have since provided tanks that were previously withheld. Poland hopes that other allied nations will follow its example in answering Kyiv’s request for fighter planes.

Slovakia has expressed its willingness to supply its own MiG-29s to Ukraine. Although the U.S. government has made no comment on Ukraine’s request for F-16s or allowing other nations to provide their own F-16s, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that “nothing is off the table” following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s request to the British Parliament for jets.