The deal, according to reports, could involve Poland handing over its existing MIG-29s, a Soviet/Russian-made jet fighter with which Ukrainian pilots are familiar, and the US would then provide its own F-16 fighters to Poland as replacements.
The MIG-29 is a twin-engine jet fighter aircraft designed in the Soviet Union. While originally oriented towards combat against any enemy aircraft, many MiG-29s have been furnished as multirole fighters capable of performing a number of different operations, and are commonly outfitted to use a range of air-to-surface armaments and precision munitions.
The MiG-29 has been manufactured in several major variants, including the multirole Mikoyan MiG-29M and the Mikoyan MiG-29K for the Navy; the most advanced member of the group to date is the Mikoyan MiG-35.
Deal providing jets to Poland being “looked at very actively”
US officials, including Blinken, had downplayed the possibility of any NATO country supplying besieged Ukraine since the beginning of this week.
But speaking in Moldova Sunday, Blinken confirmed it was under active discussion.
“Can’t speak to a timeline, but I can just say we’re looking at it very, very actively,” he told reporters.
“We are looking actively now at the question of airplanes that Poland may provide to Ukraine and looking at how we might be able to backfill should Poland decide to supply those planes.”
The comments came one day after Blinken met Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on the Poland-Ukraine border and Kuleba pressed him for the aircraft.
Ukraine needs fighter jets
After ten days of a brutal air and ground war, Kuleba said, “The highest demand that we have is in fighter jets, attack aircraft, and air-defense systems.”
“If we lose the skies, there will be much more blood on the ground,” he said after the meeting, with Blinken standing beside him.
The US is working with Poland on the possibility of Warsaw providing fighter jets to Ukraine along with consulting with other allies, a White House spokesperson confirmed, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pushes for eastern European countries to send fighter aircraft into his country.
As part of the conversations with Poland, the US is determining what “capabilities we could provide to backfill Poland if it decided to transfer planes to Ukraine,” said the spokesperson, who would not detail what backfill options are under consideration.
The spokesperson said sending fighter jets into Ukraine is a “sovereign decision for any country to make” and noted there are a host of logistics to work through, including how the aircraft would be transferred from Poland to Ukraine.
Two lawmakers participating in a Zoom call with the Ukrainian President on Saturday said Zelensky indicated Poland had signaled it is prepared to send MiG fighter jets but “they are only waiting for you (the US) to allow it.”