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Why Poland Loved the MiG-29 Fighter (And Wants to Give Them to Ukraine)

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

Poland and the MiG-29: A Love Story – The Soviet Union developed the Mikoyan MiG-29 (NATO reporting name “Fulcrum“) in response to increasingly sophisticated warplanes, and the aircraft soon earned a reputation as a formidable and agile dogfighter. Export models were operated by former East Germany, India, and Poland.

What makes the Polish MiG-29 story interesting is that the aircraft was adopted by the government in Warsaw at the tail end of the Cold War, and despite becoming a NATO member, Poland remained an enthusiastic operator of the Fulcrum. The first aircraft was delivered in 1989, and Poland remained so keen on the fighter that in 1995, it opted to purchase ten surplus MiG-29s – including nine MiG-29As and one MiG-29UB – from the Czech Republic (Czechia).

In addition, when the Luftwaffe of the reunited Germany opted to withdraw the aircraft from service in the early 2000s, Poland received a total of twenty-two more MiG-29s, including eighteen MiG-29Gs and four MiG-29GT models. The aircraft were even sold by Germany to Poland for a symbolic single Euro. The offer was accepted in September 2003, and the first aircraft arrived shortly after.

As of 2008, Poland had become the largest operator of the MiG-29 in NATO. The aircraft had been stationed with the 1st Tactical Squadron at the 23rd Air Base near Mińsk Mazowiecki and the 41st TS at the 22nd Air Base near Malbork. In order to operate with NATO, and to extend the service lives of the aging aircraft, the Polish MiGs were upgraded with a new digital databus with open architecture and a cockpit that used imperial units of measurement.

In addition, the updated MiG-29s were equipped with a laser inertial platform with embedded GPS and INS, a digital video recorder and data transfer system, an up-front control panel, a new UHF/VHF radio, an upgraded IRST sensor and a modernized NO19 radar with increased target detection and tracking range.

Transfer to Ukraine?

Despite Warsaw’s affinity and respect for the MiG-29, in early March 2022, the Polish military announced a willingness to transfer its operational fleet of Fulcrum aircraft to the United States via Ramstein Air Base in Germany in exchange for aircraft of a similar role and operational capability. The proposed plan called for the Polish MiG-29s to be transferred to Ukraine.

Russia's MiG-29

Russia’s MiG-29 fighter. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

MiG-29

MiG-29. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

F-14 vs. MiG-29

Image of MiG-29. Creative Commons Image.

Belarus MiG-29

Image: Creative Commons.

The United States nixed such a deal, but aviation analysts have suggested that the aging MiGs wouldn’t be a match for more modern Russian jets – notably the more capable Su-27/30/35 series of aircraft. It has also been suggested that Warsaw was as much interested in what it would receive – likely more modern F-16 C/D multirole combat aircraft – than what it would be offering to help Ukraine.

Even as the deal to send its MiGs to Ukraine has stalled, Warsaw has reportedly been considering what aircraft could replace its aging fleet of Soviet-era fighters. Last month, it was reported that Poland has been considering Italian and South Korean aircraft. Poland’s love story with the MiG-29 appears to be coming to an end.

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Alex

    May 6, 2022 at 7:42 am

    Duda said there would be “no more” borders between Poland and Ukraine.
    According to the President of Poland, in the absence of borders, the peoples of the two countries will be able to live together, “building together their common happiness and common strength.”
    “Between our countries – Poland and Ukraine – there will no longer be a border. This border will not exist. So that we live together on this earth, building and rebuilding together our common happiness and common strength, which will allow us to repel any danger or any possible threat.”
    And yet we Poles act smarter. We are not at war, like Russia, but we will gradually take what is ours, and let the stupid Bandera pigs think about our friendship 🙂

  2. CK

    May 6, 2022 at 8:07 am

    Day 72: Today, the Frigate Admiral Makarov spontaneously combusts in my land war against a country without a navy.

    The special naval operation to make said ship tractor proof continues as planned.

    I remain a master strategist.

  3. Alex

    May 6, 2022 at 9:33 am

    And now let’s hear the truth, not Bandera’s Nazi fakes:
    The Bandera Nazis of Ukraine rejoiced that they had arrested the Ukrainian independent journalist Anatoly Shariy in Spain. Anatoly Shariy moved his member on the lips of the Bandera Nazis and is already at large! This is democracy in Europe, and not lawlessness like you have in impoverished Ukraine, Bandera pigs 🙂

  4. CK

    May 10, 2022 at 10:16 am

    Ah, the truth.

    A concept as far removed from Alex, as Sveta’s love for him, or as the idea of victory in Ukraine is to Putin.

    There’s a certain beauty in that symmetry, I suppose.

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