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The Real Story Behind Ukraine’s ‘New’ MiG-29 Fighter Jets

MiG-29. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Did Ukraine get ‘new’ MiG-29 fighters or not? Ukraine is flying more MiG-29s than it did a few weeks ago. This shows that two months into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the skies are still contested.

The Russian Aerospace Forces have failed to achieve air dominance for several reasons. As a result, despite the overwhelming superiority of its Russian counterpart, the Ukrainian Air Force is flying dozens of fighter and attack aircraft more than 60 days into the conflict.

Not only are the Ukrainians flying dozens of aircraft, but they are also flying them increasingly more because other nations have been helping.

Questions and answers

Last week, during his daily brief to the press, Secretary of Defense’s Press Secretary John F. Kirby, admitted that the Ukrainian Air Force has received aircraft parts that have enabled it to put more aircraft in the air.

“I would just say without getting into what other nations are providing that they have received additional platforms and parts to be able to increase their fleet size—their aircraft fleet size, I think I’d leave it at that. Platforms and parts,” the Pentagon press secretary said.

There are few European countries, including Poland, Bulgaria, and Slovakia, who still fly MiG-29s and can send them to Ukraine.

Kirby provided some additional context, clarifying that in this case, a platform is an airplane, stating that the Ukrainians “have received additional aircraft and aircraft parts to help them” to get more aircraft—presumably all types—in the air.

The statements of the Pentagon’s press secretary fueled a quest to find out which country had been so bold—and subtle—to provide Ukraine with complete MiG-29 fighter jets.

But then, the next day, Kirby went on to clarify even further. In his daily brief to the press, he set the record straight saying that the Ukrainian military hasn’t received complete aircraft from any country.

“Some nations have provided spare parts so that they can get their inoperable tanks operable again. And I would say the same on aircraft. I mean, they have received support to get some of their fixed-wing aircraft, you know, more operable again. So I mean, look, the proof’s in the pudding there,” Kirby said.

The Pentagon official went on to say that the Ukrainian Air Force has now more available fixed-wing fighter aircraft in the air than it did at the start of the month.

“And that’s not by accident, that’s because other nations who have experience with those kinds of aircraft have been able to help them get more aircraft up and running,” the Pentagon press secretary added.

Although the U.S. hasn’t provided or transported any complete aircraft to Ukraine, it has facilitated the transshipment of certain spare parts. These have enabled the Ukrainian Air Force maintainers to get more aircraft in the air.

The Ukrainian Air Force also denied the reports that it had received complete aircraft. However, the Ukrainians wrote a cryptic sentence that leaves some room for speculation.

“With the assistance of the US Government, the Ukrainian Air Force received spare parts and components for the restoration and repair of the fleet of aircraft in the Armed Forces, which will allow to put into service more equipment,” the Ukrainian Air Force said on Twitter.

However, the tweet began by stating that “officially Ukraine did not receive new aircraft from partners.” So, what about unofficially? There are several countries in the region, especially Poland, that would love to send more weapons to Ukraine to fight their common enemy. Whether a mistake in the translation or something else, Ukraine is now flying several MiG-29s.

MiG-29s to Ukraine!

Since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, Ukraine has requested additional fighter jets, primarily MiG-29 Fulcrums, for its air force. The “MiG-29 to Ukraine” saga has gone over several chapters. But now it seems a solution was found, and Ukraine is flying more MiG-29s.


Polish Air Force MiG-29 at the 2013 Royal International Air Tattoo.


MiG-29 fighter. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

MiG-29 Russia

MiG-29 fighter. Image: Russian State Media.


MiG-29 fighter jet. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

An air-superiority fighter jet, the MiG-29 Fulcrum can also conduct close-air-support missions. The MiG-29 has seven external hardpoints and can pack up to two R-27 air-to-air medium-range missiles, six R-73 and R-60 air-to-air short-range missiles, four pods of S-5, S-8, S-24 unguided rockets, and dumb bombs weighing up to 6,600 pounds. It also packs a 30mm gun with 150 rounds of ammunition.

What makes the MiG-29 the ideal aircraft to send to Ukraine is the fact that the Ukrainian Air Force is already flying it. As a result, no time will be lost in training pilots and maintainers on the platform.


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