MiG-29 convoy: truck crosses Polish highway en route to Ukraine

In a series of recent videos emerging from Poland that have stirred public interest, a MiG-29 aircraft was filmed by numerous local residents using their mobile phones. These intriguing clips were made public this week, popping up across the vast expanse of popular social networking platforms since the Ukrainian conflict captured the global spotlight – X [previously known as Twitter] and Telegram. 

From the visuals in these videos, it’s clear that the weather was harsh, with puddles forming on the highway and raindrops splattered on phone covers supplying the evidence. A striking scene is dominated by an impressive Iveco truck trawler carrying a substantial load. On closer inspection, it becomes apparent that the load is a MiG-29 fighter jet. Intriguingly, the aircraft bears no markings whatsoever. The absence of the customarily seen yellow-blue colors leads many to speculate that the jet is on its way to Ukraine. 

While conjecture is rampant, the popular assumption is that the jet is headed for Ukraine. This theory is supported by the fact that the filmed highway is near the Polish-Ukrainian border. One astute observer, who keeps a close watch on military activities in Europe, commented, “In Poland, a MiG-29 fighter was spotted on a trawler, being transported towards the Ukrainian border. It seems to be a new supply from the Polish Air Force.”

MiG-29 convoy: truck crosses Polish highway en route to Ukraine
Photo credit: Twitter

Poland at War

A segment from Zbigniew Parafjanowicz’s seminal work, “Poland at War,” is creating quite a buzz on various social media platforms and news sites. This renewed interest primarily hinges on new revelations about Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, with a particular focus on how Warsaw bolstered Ukraine – conspicuously and inconspicuously. 

What holds the reader’s attention is the book’s assertion that Poland provided clandestine aviation support to Ukraine in March 2022. Interested in exploring how this was orchestrated? According to Parafjanowicz’s narrative, a team of Polish experts meticulously disassembled about a dozen MiG-29 aircraft. The disassembled components were then strategically positioned along border areas, serving as subtle hints to the Ukrainians of the existence of crucial resources in these locales. 

MiG-29 convoy: truck crosses Polish highway en route to Ukraine
Photo credit: Twitter

This new revelation suggests that as early as spring 2022, Poland was secretly furnishing Ukraine with combat aircraft, a whole year before it openly declared its involvement in the ‘aircraft coalition.’ A finer examination of other publicly available information reveals that Warsaw essentially gifted Kyiv a collection of aircraft spare parts in March of the previous year. These parts were instrumental in the subsequent deployment of several MiG-29s.

28 Polish MiG-29s

Let’s delve into some data from independent publications for some insights. As highlighted in the ‘Military Balance 2023’ manuscript, Poland had an inventory of 28 MiG-29s, including six planes specifically designed for combat training. Interestingly, the data remained unchanged between 2021 and 2023, according to ‘The Military Balance.’ This indicates there’s no record of any MiG-29s leaving the Polish Air Force to potentially benefit Ukraine. 

Poland has delivered MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine but in parts
Polish Air Force MiG-29 © Sunburn1979 on Wikimedia

We should also examine another aspect – the composition of Poland’s MiG-29 fleet during the 2000s. Besides the 10 aircraft received from the USSR in the 80s, Poland inherited up to 9 planes from the Czech Republic and 24 from Germany. 

Using simple math, we can assuredly conclude that, by February 2022, Poland likely had approximately a dozen MiG-29s serving as ‘parts donors‘. These aircraft theoretically could have been dispatched as covert aviation aid to Ukraine in March 2022. Additionally, another intriguing viewpoint is that Poland, in collaboration with Israel, upgraded 15 MiG-29 aircraft between 2011 and 2014. These upgrades brought their onboard equipment up to par with NATO’s standards

However, it seems improbable that Poland would have discarded the original Soviet avionics of these planes. It’s more likely that they were stored and could have been unofficially ‘gifted’ to Ukraine in March 2022.

What will Kyiv put on the bizarre MiG-29 underwing hardpoint?
Photo credit: Dzen.ru

MiG-29G and MiG-29GT

The Polish Air Force operates an upgraded version of the MiG-29, known as the MiG-29G [9.12A] and MiG-29GT [9.12B]. These aircraft were originally from the German Luftwaffe, which inherited them from East Germany after reunification. 

The MiG-29G and MiG-29GT are powered by two Klimov RD-33 turbofan engines, each capable of producing 8,300 kilograms of thrust. This power allows the aircraft to reach a maximum speed of Mach 2.25, or about 2,400 kilometers per hour. 

The operational range of the MiG-29G and MiG-29GT is approximately 1,500 kilometers without external fuel tanks. With the addition of external fuel tanks, this range can be expanded to about 2,100 kilometers. The aircraft also has a service ceiling of 18,000 meters.

MiG-29G/MiG-29GT’s avionica and armament

When it comes to avionics, the Polish MiG-29s are outfitted with a N019 Topaz air radar and a Ts100.02-02 digital computer. The radar can detect air targets up to 70 kilometers away and ground targets up to 25 kilometers away. Additionally, the aircraft is equipped with a helmet-mounted targeting system, significantly enhancing accuracy. 

Slovakia says goodbye to MiG-29s, and Ukraine hopes to get them
Photo credit: Global Look Press

The armament of the Polish MiG-29s displays impressive versatility. Equipped with a 30mm GSh-301 autocannon capable of holding 150 rounds, the aircraft also offers six underwing and one ventral hardpoint, supporting up to 2,000 kilograms of ordnance. This load could consist of a diverse array of air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, bombs, and rocket pods. 

All in all, the MiG-29G and MiG-29GT emerge as high-performing multirole fighters, proficient in executing air superiority, ground attack, and reconnaissance missions. Their amalgamation of speed, range, and firepower positions them as a notable asset for the Polish Air Force.

Poland-Israel MiG-29 connection

Let’s delve into the recent decision by Poland to gift its MiG-29s to Ukraine: One cannot help but wonder about the current status of these fighter planes. As a member of NATO and one of the few operators, it’s logical to presume that Poland would have upgraded these aircraft years ago.  

Syria received second batch of modernized MiG-29 fighters from Russia
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Poland’s NATO membership is long-standing, and over time, their MiG-29s have repeatedly been used in various NATO maneuvers. This notion brings a question to the forefront: have all the MiG-29s been upgraded or not?  

Let’s be fair; a significant portion of the MiG-29 fighters among NATO countries are managed by the Air Force of Poland. Consequently, a large batch of Polish MiG-29s was upgraded earlier to meet NATO standards.  

Between 2011 and 2014, the majority of the MiG-29 planes underwent modernization at Wojskowe Zaklady Lotnicze Nr. 2, a repair base for the Polish aviation industry. This process was accomplished in close collaboration with Israel Aerospace Industries [IAI], a leading entity in the Israeli aerospace sphere.

The upgrade

Upgraded avionics, radar, navigation, and communication systems have brought significant innovations to the aircraft. The addition of a GPS satellite channel and an onboard computer equipped with digital audio and video recorders for post-mission debriefing has also been part of the transformation. A notable enhancement within the cockpit is the integration of an onboard complex fitted with a HUD display and a multi-functional head indicator. 

Moreover, the revitalized Polish MiGs have been enhanced to accommodate NATO aviation weaponry. They are now compatible with the US AGM-88 HARM high-speed anti-radar missiles, in addition to AIM-9 short-range air-to-air missiles guided by infrared homing. Furthermore, the Polish MiGs can utilize early versions of the AIM-120 mid-range air-to-air missiles with a target lock range of up to 70 km. 

Bulgarian Air Force Pilots Refuse to Fly Outdated MiG-29 Jets
© pixabay.com

Refurbished Polish MiG-29 fighters have also been enhanced with the capability to operate using American JDAM and JDAM-ER-guided bombs. Consequently, 15 overhauled MiG-29 units have been designated for the 23rd Minsk-Mazovetsky Air Base. 

The remaining 13 Polish MiG-29 fighters were positioned at the 22nd Air Base in Malbork. The upgrades on these aircraft were less extensive and focused mainly on refining their radar and communication systems, as well as incorporating a NATO identification system for distinguishing friends from foe.

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