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Poland and Slovakia to send some 40 MiG-29s to Ukraine

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Poland/Slovakia – Polish President Andrzej Duda was the first to announce the delivery of fighter jets to Ukraine, during the visit of his Czech counterpart, Petr Pavel, on 16 March. Duda stated that his country was going to deliver four MiG-29 fighter jets to Kyiv “in the coming days”. Poland originally had 28 MiG-29s and Mateusz Morawiecki’s government intends to transfer its 24 remaining warplanes of that model to Ukraine as it replaces them with South Korean FA-50s, which are said to be a lighter version of the US-made F-16. A day after the Polish president’s announcement, Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger announced that Slovakia would likewise make all its 13 MiG-29s available to Ukraine.

Not all of them are currently operational, though, and they must first be refurbished. They were retired from the Slovak Air Force in 2022 and are to be replaced by 14 F-16s  by 2024. For its part, Poland has ordered 32 F-35 fighter jets to reinforce its fleet of 48 F-16s, with deliveries planned between 2024 and 2030 (the first six are to become operational in the Polish Air Force in 2024-25). Hence the need to buy 48 South Korean FA-50 light fighters to replace its fleet of 28 MiG-29s, with deliveries set to start this year.

As for the Slovak Prime Minister, he stated:

We will hand over our 13 MiG-29s to Ukraine. […] We are giving these MiGs to Ukraine so that they can protect civilians

from the many bombs that fall on their homes and cause deaths in Ukraine. (…) Our actions are being fully coordinated with Poland and Ukraine. ”

This announcement by Eduard Heger does not have the support of a majority of Slovaks, however, contrary to the situation in Poland, where the transfer of MiG-29s to Ukraine is supported by a large majority, according to the polls. The leader of Slovakia’s biggest opposition party, Robert Fico of the centre-left Smer-SD (and who was the country’s prime minister in 2006–2010 and 2012–2018), has strongly criticized this decision that was made by a right-wing government that is only supposed to be in charge of current affairs. It was voted out in the National Council on 15 December, 2022, and early elections will have to take place by June of this year at the latest. “These agreements must be approved by the parliament and ratified by the Head of State”, Fico said, adding that (…)

the decision to give combat aircraft to Ukraine was “an openly hostile move against Russia” and that it “will drag Slovakia into a military conflict”. 

Fico called on his “enemy brothers” in Peter Pellegrini’s Hlas-SD (both parties were founded as the result of a split within the social-democratic SMER party) to form a government that will develop a different policy towards the war in Ukraine. ”

Peregrini himself said that if he were still prime minister, “the [Slovak] MiGs  would continue to fly and protect [Slovak] airspace.

On 22 March, Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad’ announced that 12 Bell AH-1Z Viper helicopter gunships and over 500 Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire II air-to-surface missiles would be delivered to Slovakia. According to the minister’s statement, Slovakia will have to pay $340 million over three to four years, while the remaining cost, amounting to $660 million, will be covered by the US Defense Fund (FMF), which is responsible for financing foreign military programs of strategic importance to the United States.

Thanks to our responsible defence policy, our relationship with the United States, and our clear support for Ukraine, we received this offer first”, Nad’ explained,

presenting the deal as a form of compensation for the transfer of MiG-29s to Ukraine.

This offer is extremely advantageous and will significantly increase the Slovak Republic’s defence potential, Nad’ said. We currently don’t have any combat helicopters, so this will be a completely new combat capability.