Let’s Discuss Which Nations Could Donate ‘Fighter Jets’ to Ukraine

MiG-29 Fulcrum. (Image credit: Author)

The most likely candidates for the donation seems to be the MiG-29 or the Su-25. Here’s why.

Ukraine has received and will continue to receive military aid from NATO and European Union nations. While additional equipment could be supplied in the near future, the Ukrainian Air Force has recently received resupplies of air-to-air missiles used by its combat planes that continue to fight against the Russian Air Force in the skies over Ukraine.

AFP reported late on Sunday Feb. 27, 2022, that the EU countries would be ready to provide ‘fighter jets’ to Ukraine. No additional detail has been provided, however, the statement is enough for some comment.

First of all, given the fact that the training of a fighter pilot to fly a given aircraft type is a lengthy and costly process, it seems reasonable to assume that the only possible rapid transfer could involve a type already in service with the Ukrainian Air Force. This means that the donation should concern one of the following three types: MiG-29 Fulcrum, Su-25 Frogfoot, or Su-27 Flanker.

Among the EU/NATO allies, the Su-25 is operated by the Bulgarian Air Force that also operates some 15x MiG-29s. The latter is also operated by Poland (30 aircraft), and Slovakia (13 operational aircraft).

  • Bulgarian Fulcrums are soon going to be replaced by brand-new F-16 jets – the procurement is expected to be finalized by 2024.
  • Polish jets have been modernized, having been fitted with a modern IFF system, Rockwell Collins AN/ARN-153 TACAN, and ANV-241 MMR VOR/IRS navigation systems, civ-spec Trimble 210P GPS, and Thomson CSF SB-14 RWR. Radio has been replaced with RS 6113-2 VHF/UHF Another 16 aircraft also received another upgrade, with MFDs, mission computer, Up-Front Control Panel (UFCP), GPS/INS system from Honeywell, with SAASM, MIL-STD 1553 data bus, and Rockwell Collins AN/ARC-210 (Talon RT-8200) VHF/UHF radio. Poland is expected to replace all of its Fulcrums with the F-35.
  • Slovak upgrade was far more modest, but the aircraft comply with NATO/ICAO standards. Slovakia is on the path to getting brand new F-16s Block 70. The Slovak Air Force, however, operated the more modern 9.12 variant, nonetheless, the fleet is really worn out, with just a couple examples left in a flightworthy condition.

The Slovak Fulcrums, in particular, appear to be the most advanced and possibly better suited for the role. It remains unclear, however, how many of them are still flying.

Dealing with the Frogfoot, Bulgaria is believed to operate 14x Su-25 jets. It procured its Su-25s in 1985, as the second Warsaw Pact nation, replacing its MiG-17s. Bezmer Air Base is the homebase of the Bulgarian Frogfoot fleet. The Bulgarian fleet did not undergo western style avionics upgrade, and lack NATO standardized IFF or nav equipment. However, they have been fitted with new radios and a GPS/GLONASS nav suite, updated flight recorder and a new HUD, along with cockpit MFDs. Belarus also overhauled the engines, extending the service lives by more than 500 hours.

The aircraft now can also employ the R-73 (AA-11) Archer AAM, and 130 mm unguided rockets. All of the upgraded aircraft wear a pixel camo scheme. Interestingly, the last of the Su-25K was delivered to the Bezmer Air Base on Feb. 11. 2021 – this is quite recent. All considered, these are still in use and it seems unlikely that the Bulgarian Air Force can give them away.

Anyway, that being said, it seems reasonable, given the limited amount of information now, that the potential donors could only be selected among the aforesaid group. We need to see how this plays out.

About Jacek Siminski
Standing contributor for TheAviationist. Aviation photojournalist. Co-Founder of DefensePhoto.com. Expert in linguistics, Cold War discourse, Cold War history and policy and media communications.