Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) detained three suspects for attempting to illegally export MiG-29 fighter jet components worth close to Hr.2.5 million (approximately $69,600) to Asian buyers, including the Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) radar transponder module.

IFF transponder units help distinguish friendly aircraft from enemies by sending special codes to querying radars used by fighter aircraft and ground-based air defense systems, which could compromise Ukraine’s air defense if it fell into the wrong hands.

According to the SBU report, the suspects stole the components from the Motor Sich factory, an aircraft engine manufacturer based in central Ukraine. They planned to transport them out of Ukraine through Transnistria, a Russian-controlled enclave located inside Moldova.

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SBU apprehended one suspect when he attempted to cross into Transnistria, with the illegal goods concealed in the mechanical compartments of his car.

A businessman from Kharkiv was identified as the brain of the operation, who looked for buyers by posting aircraft repair advertisements on the internet.

SBU identified the buyers as “East Asian” without specifying their identity and nationality.

MiG-29 fighter jets form the backbone of the Ukrainian Air Force and remain an extremely valuable asset in Ukraine’s war against Russia.

The jets – as well as the pilots manning them – have also received high media coverage for defending Ukraine against airborne threats since the full-scale invasion.

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The former president of Motor Sich, Vyacheslav Boguslaev, was arrested by the SBU in 2022 for supplying Russia with engine components after the February 2022 invasion.

In 2015, Boguslaev sold his shares – 56 percent of the company – to an aerospace and defense company in China. The purchase underwent a series of negotiations with US intervention due to national security concerns, with Ukraine and China signing a series of cooperation agreements.

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Ukraine announced the nationalization of Motor Sich in late 2022.

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