While Germany’s green light to Poland, for the transfer of five MiG-29 fighter jets to Kyiv, will help Ukraine’s embattled military in its fight for the skies, it is unlikely to get anywhere near to overcoming Russia’s air superiority.

The German Defense Ministry announced, on Thursday April 13, that it had approved a Polish request to export five former East German MiG-29s to Ukraine. No delivery date was revealed, but Berlin had approved the transfer immediately on receiving the Polish request, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported, citing Defense Minister Boris Pistorius

Germany’s Luftwaffe air force had inherited 24 Cold War-era MiG-29 fighters, from the former East Germany, in 1990 and handed over the already-threadbare and aging jets to Poland in 2000. Warsaw has upgraded some of these planes and handed over four, refurbished aircraft, to Ukraine in April.


On March 17, Slovakia gave approval to send Ukraine a total 13 MiG-29. Some of which, like the Polish MiGs, were equipped with new communications and navigation systems that meet and align with NATO standards. The first five Slovak jets reached Ukraine later that month and, according to Ukrainian media reports, had already been in combat by early April.

According to the independent military information platform Oryx, at least three of the remaining thirteen Slovakian MiGs are in such poor condition that they are unfit to fly and are only suitable as a source of spare parts. To date, a total of 27 MiG-29 fighter jets has either been promised, or delivered, to Ukraine by western states, Oryx reported.

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The threat from drones, loitering munitions and precision-guided weapons applies as much to artillery systems as it does to tanks and other armored vehicles.

According to some news reports, this latest batch of five Polish aircraft have not received NATO upgrades and, with radars and radios unchanged from the 1980s, must be considered, by almost any standard, to be obsolete.

The Russian air force maintains air superiority by operating fighter jets of at least a generation more advanced than those available to Ukraine. Russia’s aircraft possess radars and air-to-air missiles able to acquire and destroy aircraft at twice the range of any combat jet held by Ukraine, even the upgraded MiGs donated by Poland and Slovakia.


Russia’s advanced R-70 missile will, in most engagements, shoot down Ukraine’s aging MiG-29 and Su-27 fighter jets before the pilot even knows he was targeted, Ukrainian pilots have told local media.

Numbers and ground aviation infrastructure are also strongly on the Kremlin’s side. The Ukrainian Army General Staff (AGS) routinely reports the number of daily Russian air force sorties as being triple and, at times, five times those of the Ukrainian air force. Western observers estimate that battle-worthy Russian aircraft outnumber the Ukrainian air force by a similar or even greater disparity.

Kyiv has, without success, petitioned its western allies for deliveries of modern, fourth-generation western fight aircraft, for more than a year.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister ,Denys Shmyhal, arrived in Washington DC on Wednesday April 12 in a passenger jet, on which a US-made F-16 “Viper” fighter jet, along with an image of an American flag and a two-hands praying emoji had been painted on the fuselage.


US media reported that Shmyhal continued to make repeated requests for F-16s or, possibly, the even more capable F-15 fighters, in meetings at the Pentagon on Thursday April 13.

“In modern warfare, air superiority is crucial,” Shmyhal said in comments reported by the influential US publication The Hill. “That is why Ukraine is initiating the building of a new, so-called fighter jet coalition. And we are inviting the United States to become its most important participant. America can once again demonstrate its leadership by providing Ukraine with F-15 or F-16 aircraft.” 

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in comments made the same day, repeated the longstanding stock answer of the administration that America had given massive assistance to Ukraine so far, without responding directly to Kyiv’s appeal for Washington to send modern fighter jets, before it’s too late.

"With President Biden's leadership, the United States has supported Ukraine's fight for freedom every step of the way,” Austin said in comments published by the Department of Defense. “[We] will meet Ukraine's defense needs through this spring and beyond."

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