Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on Western allies to send it powerful fighter jets, like the MiG-29 fighter jet seen here, as the war carries into its second yearImage: Rosanna van de Logt/Zoonar/picture alliance
Poland to transfer MiG-29 jets to Ukraine within days
March 16, 2023
President Andrzej Duda has announced they will deliver four fighter jets to Ukraine in "the next few days," becoming the first NATO member to do so since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The announcement comes after Poland's leaders said last week that sending the warplanes would only be done within a larger international coalition. On Tuesday, Duda did not indicate that such coalition had been formed.
Washington said on Thursday said their decision to not supply Kyiv with F-16s remained unchanged, after the Polish announcement. US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that: "It doesn't change our calculus with regards to F-16s."
Ukraine's Air Force already operates Su-24, Su-25 and MiG-29 Soviet-era fighter jets, meaning its pilots are familiar with these systems.
But, Ukrainian pilots would have to be trained to fly the planes which typically takes 9 months, and the decision would not be a practical one in the short term.
Why Ukraine is pleading for Western fighter jets
Jim Townsend, a former US deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy, explained to DW this January why he thinks the MiGs would be a better option for Ukrainian forces in the short-term.
"They're aircraft that Ukraine has flown before and can support. And I think we need to turn to that first. And it might be, in order for those planes to be sent to Ukraine, the US could backfill with F-16s to that country that is giving up their former Soviet aircraft."
Some training underway in UK
On the other hand, while the UK promised to train Ukrainian air forces to fly combat jets in February, the UK's Royal Air Forces itself does not operate F-16s.
The UK said its decision to train pilots to fly fighter jets didn't mean it was looking to send their jets to Kyiv, rather that it wanted to be ready more quickly should a decision change in the future. Britain also noted that given Ukraine's air force equipment losses, it currently had more fighter pilots than aircraft fit to fly.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told the national parliament in January that Germany was clear from the very early days of war that it would not send combat aircraft.
"I made it clear very early on that we are not talking about combat aircraft, and I am doing the same here,” Scholz said.
Ukraine and Russia have lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers on both sides and Ukrainian forces are training for a spring offensive.