Ukraine Collects Four MiG-29s From Slovakia
Slovakia has become the first country to declare it has delivered operational crewed combat aircraft to Ukraine, with the transfer of four MiG-29s to the war-torn country.
Ukrainian pilots collected the aircraft, which had been in storage in Slovakia since the Warsaw Pact-era fighters were withdrawn from the Slovak Air Force inventory last summer.
Video released by the Slovak defense ministry shows the four aircraft, all single-seaters, taxiing out and taking off on the short delivery flight, their final destination in Ukraine unknown.
All four aircraft had their Slovak national markings painted out, but their serials remain. Another nine aircraft are expected to follow in the coming weeks, defense officials say.
Slovakia’s handing over of MiG-29s is the first officially declared transfer of operational combat aircraft to Ukraine in its war with Russia. Other nations may have made similar transfers but have not publicly announced them.
Several countries are believed to have delivered nonoperational airframes that could be stripped for spares. These include North Macedonia, which delivered four Sukhoi Su-25s ground attack aircraft from long-term storage.
“Slovakia is on the right side, and with this gesture, we as a country have written ourselves in capital letters in modern world history,” Slovak Defense Minister Jaro Nad said.
Poland has also declared that it will deliver its surplus MiG-29s to Ukraine. The transfers are expected to take place shortly, if they have not already. Warsaw has so far kept a tight lid on its defense equipment transfers to Ukraine.
It is hoped that the fighter transfers will help bolster the Ukrainian Air Force fighter fleet. The fleet has employed its MiG-29s mainly for air defense duties and also in an austere destruction of enemy air defense role, thanks to deliveries of U.S. anti-radiation missiles.
Ukraine is ultimately seeking deliveries of Western combat aircraft such as Lockheed Martin F-16s to try to secure air superiority over Russian fighters and air defenses.
Slovakia plans to backfill the MiG-29s with deliveries of Block 70 F-16s that were on order prior to the war starting, but deliveries have been delayed.
Without a fighter aircraft to perform national air policing, protection of Slovak airspace is currently being performed by fighters from Poland and the Czech Republic.