Slovakia says goodbye to MiG-29s, and Ukraine hopes to get them
BRATISLAVA ($1=0.98 Euros) — The Slovak Air Force will withdraw the MiG-29 fighters from service by the end of August. From then until Slovakia receives the ordered F-16 fighters, Poland and the Czech Republic will protect its airspace.
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The Slovak Air Force is finally saying goodbye to the MiG-29 fighters after thirty years, their service will end at the end of August. Until the arrival of 14, Lockheed Martin F-16C/D [also known as F-16V] fighters ordered in 2018 in the latest Block 70/72 configuration, whose delivery is likely to begin in 2024, Poland and the Czech Republic will protection of Slovakia’s airspace within the framework of common understanding. The Czech Republic will guard Slovakian skies from September.
In April, it was decided that Poland would protect the skies of Slovakia. Then Minister Mariusz Blaszczak discussed the details of the agreement in a meeting with his Slovak counterpart. Thanks to this agreement, Slovakia will be able to ground its MiG-29 fighters, which it has been considering for some time.
For some time, information has appeared in the media that Slovakia may hand over its MiG-29s to Ukraine. However, the matter is not so simple. In early July, Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger said his country could send MiG-29 fighter jets and Soviet tanks to Ukraine, but no details were given at the time. So far in April, Heger’s government has handed Ukraine S-300 anti-missile systems [in exchange, Germany, the Netherlands, and the US have deployed several Patriot batteries in Slovakia], according to the government’s decision, their value is 69 million euros, including missiles and spare parts.
This made Russia unhappy. Slovak aid to Ukraine also includes the transfer of other weapons and military equipment, including 122 mm ammunition for rocket artillery [Grad / RM-70]. Bratislava also provided Ukraine with crude oil and aviation fuel. Recently, the first “Zuzana 2” howitzers purchased from Ukraine were handed over, and earlier – four Mi-17 helicopters and one Mi-2 from surplus military forces.
Because Slovakia is decommissioning its MiG-29s, rumors began to appear that the MiG-29s will be or have already been handed over to Ukraine. This was reported by Parameter.sk. However, Minister Nad emphasized in his statements that it is the Ministry of Defense that will decide the fate of the MiGs. On Sunday, August 14, Defense Minister Yaroslav Nad denied reports that Slovakia had handed over MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. He added that Slovak MiG-29s are not located in Ukraine but at Slovak airfields.
As the minister said, Slovakia is currently considering what to do with them, but no final decisions have been made yet. Talks are underway with allies, which could mean Bratislava wants to support third countries to reduce the political risk associated with the transfer of machinery. Nevertheless, Minister Nad confirmed the very fact of the planned withdrawal of the MiG in August.
The Slovakian MiG-29 could be attractive to Ukraine for two reasons. First, they operate and are located in a neighboring country. Second, they come from a newer version than the others and have undergone a fairly simple upgrade process that mainly involves navigation, connectivity, and IFF systems to bring the machines up to NATO standards. Perhaps before handing it over to Ukraine, some of this equipment will have to be dismantled, but the way they have used means that Slovak fighters can be used immediately and remain in service much longer than, for example, Bulgarian ones because they are serviced quite regularly and efficiently by manufacturers.
Planes to Ukraine – the hard way
At the beginning of the full-scale war in February of this year The Ukrainian side and the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell announced that Kyiv will receive post-Soviet aircraft from EU member states. However, the issue was not agreed upon with member states, including Poland, and ultimately the concept was not implemented. Among other things, no safe method has been developed, including for the donor countries, for the delivery of aircraft.
Since then, there have been reports that a country is willing to donate, but in exchange for more advanced equipment. Poland has 28 MiG-29 fighters in service, Slovakia has 11, and Bulgaria is the third country that actively uses MiG-29 in NATO. Although there was no official transfer of the whole aircraft to Ukraine, parts and air-to-air missiles were certainly delivered, and possibly parts of aircraft [in this context, the former Moldovan MiG-29s that the US had at its disposal were mentioned].
Before the outbreak of war, Ukraine is believed to have had 51 operational MiG-29s, including eight two-seaters. These machines appeared during the battles, among others, over Kyiv in the early days of the war, giving rise to the legend of the Spirit of Kyiv – a lone ace who fought Russian aviation over the capital. The MiG-29s are fighting for air supremacy alongside the Ukrainian Su-27s, of which there were 32 in service before the war.
Thanks to the very high level of training, as well as limited support from the West [except for small supplies of equipment, in the form of valuable intelligence], the Ukrainian Air Force still operates and defends the airspace quite effectively, especially if we consider the huge disproportionate potential with Russia.
However, Ukraine is losing well-trained pilots. For example, Anton Listopad, who was awarded the title of the best pilot of the Air Force in 2019, died recently.
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