They can fly, but not fight – Russian interference in Slovak MiGs
BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA — A week ago, Slovakia announced that it would provide Ukraine with MiG-29s. Poland did the same. Decisions that benefit Ukraine against the backdrop of losses of Ukrainian warplanes since the beginning of the war.
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By the end of 2022, Slovakian MiG-29s have undergone repair or refurbishment. It turns out that Russian specialists carried out the repair. They were at the Slovak air base until at least the end of 2022.
According to a statement by the Slovak Minister of Defense, Mr. Jaroslav Nad, Russian technicians sabotaged Slovakian MiG-29s. At the time, there was still public talk of a potential delivery of these MiGs to Ukraine, but there was no resolution and no indication that this would happen. In fact, almost from the beginning of the war, Slovakia said that it was ready to donate its MiG-29s.
According to Mr. Nad, the MiG-29s were capable of flying but not of fighting. He also says that the sabotage was carried out on aircraft parts and components that only Russians [Russian technicians] worked on. They [the technicians] were on a long-term contract at the air force base and were employed by the Ministry of Defense of Slovakia.
Slovak Defense Minister Nad believes that sabotage is a fact, but it can be overcome, as Ukraine has the technological base and spare parts to be replaced and the fighter jets to become operationally ready for combat. “They have pilots, spare parts, and a company that works on Soviet-era MiGs,” he said.
However, not all Slovak MiG-29s will be used in offensive Ukrainian actions. According to sources cited by Reuters, some of the planes are only suitable for spare parts. The reason is that the Slovak version of the MiG-29 is not very different from the Ukrainian one.
This is also good news for Ukraine, since Russia, as the successor to the Soviet Union, is the supplier of parts for the MiGs and is not expected to supply Slovakia or Ukraine with the necessary spare parts.
F-16 or Gripen
Ukraine continues to insist on receiving fighter jets from the West. The focus in the last few months has been on the American F-16 fighter jet. Russia has air superiority in Ukrainian skies. Experts believe that even if Ukraine gets the F-16, it will not change the balance. But if Kyiv’s intentions are to return the Russian-occupied Crimea, combat aviation is necessary.
Currently, Washington rejects Kyiv’s requests to send F-16s. The Pentagon has repeatedly made statements that this plane will not “get the job done” for the Ukrainians. At this stage, the F-16 will not help Ukraine, senior US military and analysts say.
BulgarianMilitary.com has reported several times that the Gripen, not the F-16, is the most suitable of the Western-made combat aircraft for the war in Ukraine. The Gripen can be serviced quickly by mobile groups without the need for a dedicated depot, as is the case with the F-16. The Swedish fighter can take off from short runways, making it suitable for easy deployment and localization around small urban or agricultural airstrips. The Gripen can take off from the road, which means it can easily be hidden in wooded regions. All qualities that the F-16 does not have.
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