Monday, 20 March 2023

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Slovakia joins Poland in sending Soviet-era jets to Ukraine

Slovakia joins Poland in sending Soviet-era jets to Ukraine

Slovakia has said it will join Poland in sending its Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, widening the west’s military contributions aimed at bolstering the country’s air defences against a barrage of Russian missile attacks.

Prime Minister Eduard Heger said in a tweet on Friday that his country would send 13 MiG-29s to Ukraine, following Warsaw’s announcement that it would dispatch at least four of its own aircraft. The planes will be of use as additional aircraft and spare parts for Ukraine’s existing MiG fleet, but they fall short of Kyiv’s demand for western fighter jets such as the US-made F-16s.

Before this week’s announcements, both Warsaw and Bratislava had said that the delivery of MiG-29 jets could only be made as part of a “coalition” of western countries, and backed up by pledges from other Nato states to replace those jets with western aircraft.

Washington welcomed both Poland and Slovakia’s announcements, but the White House said it had not changed its mind on whether to send F-16s. The Biden administration has argued that sending them would be too costly and that they would take too long to reach the battlefield.

“It doesn’t have any impact or effect on our own sovereign decision making when it comes to F-16s,” John Kirby, a spokesman for the US National Security Council said Friday.

Ukrainian forces know how to use the MiG-29s already, he said, and the US expects they “would be additive to the fighter aircraft capabilities that the Ukrainian air force has at their disposal.”

Yuriy Ignat, spokesman for Ukraine’s air force, said the MiG-29s would strengthen its capabilities, but added that such as Soviet-designed aircraft was “not an effective weapon against the weapons of terror. Their antiquated missiles, radars, and radar on-board aircraft cannot be very effective”.

Mykola Bielieskov, an analyst at Ukraine’s National Institute for Strategic Studies but speaking in a private capacity, said the Polish and Slovak MiGs had better communication systems but were in some ways less capable than Ukraine’s MiGs which had already been adapted to fire certain western-supplied missiles.

Polish officials hope that their announcement and that of Slovakia will be a “mid-step” towards convincing Washington and other countries with more advanced fighter jets to change their minds. Several European countries have F-16s, but sending those to Ukraine would also require US approval.

A Polish official said…

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