Poland has announced plans to transfer four MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets to neighboring Ukraine in the coming days.
Polish President Andrzej Duda announced the plans to transfer the warplanes during a press conference on Thursday. The decision makes Poland the first NATO country to facilitate the transfer of combat aircraft to Ukraine in the ongoing war with Russia.
Duda said the first four MiG-29s are in working order and ready for transfer in the coming days. He said Poland has between 10 and 20 MiG-29s and could send around a dozen of the fighter jets to Ukraine in the near future.
Polish journalist Karol Darmoros reported Poland plans to replenish its own aircraft fleets with South Korean-made FA-50s and U.S.-made F-35s.
The transfer of these MiG-29s comes as NATO has been deliberating sending other fighter aircraft, like the F-16 Fighting Falcon, to Ukraine. Earlier this week, eight U.S. senators urged the U.S. Department of Defense to take another look at transferring F-16s to Ukraine, despite President Joe Biden’s prior opposition to the idea.
Poland is Ukraine’s closest western neighbor and has served as a main transfer point for shipments of NATO weapons systems to Ukraine.
Russian officials have said the weapons systems NATO has supplied to Ukraine — such as tanks and artillery systems — already constitute direct involvement in the war. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev — who now serves as deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia — has told Russian media NATO supplying fighter jets to Ukraine would be considered a “direct entry” by the alliance into a war with Russia.
Poland had indicated plans to transfer MiG-29s to Ukraine earlier this week but said it would do so as part of a broader coalition of countries willing to send fighter jets to Ukraine.
The MiG-29 is a Soviet-era design. The multirole fighter was developed for air defense and ground attack roles, according to a U.S. Air Force fact sheet. The MiG-19 entered development in the 1970S and was delivered to the first Soviet forces in 1983. The aircraft has since been adopted by several Eastern European, Asian and Africa nations, along with Peru.
Poland obtained its MiG-29s through the now-defunct government of East Germany, which had been a Soviet satellite state during the Cold War. Duda said the aging fighter jets were approaching their last years of operation with the Polish military.