EU approves sending of fighter jets to Ukraine in ‘watershed’ moment for the bloc

A Ukrainian MIG-29 fighter jet is parked at the Vasilkov air base outside outside Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
By Grzegorz Adamczyk
4 Min Read

The European Union announced on Monday its intention to supply Ukraine with fighter jets to aid the ongoing defense of the country following Russia’s invasion.

Described as a watershed moment by the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the bloc has approved the use of €450 million of its budget for member states to provide Ukraine with arms, including air defense systems, anti-tank weapons, ammunition, and protective equipment. The Commission also approved the sending of fighter jets by member states to Kyiv.

“The European Union steps up once more its support for Ukraine and the sanctions against the aggressor that is Putin’s Russia,” said von der Leyen said. “For the first time ever, the European Union will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country that is under attack,” she added.

Russia’s Defense Ministry has responded that there will be consequences for those countries supplying Ukraine with arms. There are concerns that the war could escalate beyond the borders of Ukraine as more countries pile in support to out manned Ukrainian forces in the hopes of beating back the Russian advance.

How effective the fighter jets will be in comparison to the anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry provided by EU nations remains to be seen. As of now, the EU’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, did not specify the exact type of aircraft to be sent. However, there is speculation in the Polish media that these will be MIG-29s, which Poland has been using. Poland has been replacing them with F-16 fighters.

The MIG-29 aircraft has also been used by Bulgarian and Slovak air forces and can be transferred to Ukraine very quickly. They are also well-known to Ukrainian pilots who fly them and the Su-25.

The Ukrainian parliament on Monday evening tweeted that Europe was sending 70 fighter planes to Ukraine. According to this tweet, 28 MIG-29s will be send from Poland, 12 from Slovakia and 16 from Bulgaria, along with 14 Su-25s from Bulgaria.

The MIG-29 is a jet plane that was designed in the 1970s in the USSR. The fighter jet was mass produced from 1983, with 1,600 planes having been constructed. It is a plane designed for combat, capable of flying at 2,445 kilometers per hour.

Even though the design dates back to the era of Leonid Brezhnev, it remains a dangerous and effective fighter plane, even if its range is limited to 1,750-2,100 kilometers. It is equipped with an S-29 Topaz radar.

It can detect planes that are 70 kilometers in front or 35 kilometers from the rear, and can follow 10 targets simultaneously while guiding air-to-air missiles onto one of them. Poland currently has 28 such planes stationed in central and northern Poland. They were the most modern fighter planes available to the Polish Air Force until the arrival of the F-16s.

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