Not a Surprise
The Pentagon has declared that finds Poland’s offer of MiG-29s to the Ukraine is, “Not tenable.”
This is not a surprise. The Polish MiG-29s are different from the Ukrainian ones. They have different configurations, and over the past few years different upgrades and different maintenance regimes.
It generally takes over a year in peacetime to incorporate a new aircraft into an air force. The Polish and Ukrainian Fulcrums are very similar aircraft, so it probably would only take a few months, in peacetime.
It’s a grand gesture, but in the current circumstances it’s pretty empty gesture: (There are also significant legal issues)
After several days of discussions around a fighter jet swap that would see Poland give its MiG-29 fleet to Ukraine in exchange for American F-16s, Poland today announced that it is ready to give America the jets and let Washington then transfer them to Kyiv.
The problem: it seems no one told the US, and after hours of confusion, a Pentagon statement effectively shut the door on the plan.
The Polish announcement, published in English on a government website Tuesday afternoon, stated that the “authorities of the Republic of Poland, after consultations between the President and the Government, are ready to deploy — immediately and free of charge — all their MIG-29 jets to the Ramstein Air Base and place them at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America.
“At the same time, Poland requests the United States to provide us with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities. Poland is ready to immediately establish the conditions of purchase of the planes. The Polish Government also requests other NATO Allies — owners of MIG-29 jets — to act in the same vein.”
“The prospect of fighter jets ‘at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America’ departing from a U.S./NATO base in Germany to fly into airspace that is contested with Russia over Ukraine raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance. It is simply not clear to us that there is a substantive rationale for it,” the statement said, noting that the proposal “shows just some of the complexities this issue presents.”
Even before the Pentagon all but killed Poland’s proposal, there were legal questions about how the US could accept a gift of almost 30 Russian-made fighters from Poland. A precedent for such a deal, where the US accepts a gift of weapons from another country was not immediately apparent, nor is it clear what legal method the US would use to transfer those weapons back to Ukraine.
Then there are questions about logistics — how the jets would get to Ukraine without being shot down by Russian air assets, where they would be based, who would fly and maintain them, how the Ukrainian pilots would get to Germany to take control of the planes and, not to mention, how quickly the US could backfill planes to Poland.
I’m pretty sure that the Poles were aware of the multitude of issues that this proposal has raised, but there will be a parliamentary election at some point in the next 18 months, and this will play well in the voting booth.