Polthrottles up support for Ukraine with offer to hover fighter jets
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Poloffered to give its entire fleet of MiG-29 fighter jets to the U.S. in exchange for a chance to buy American F-16s as part of a deal to bolster the Ukrainian air force while upgrading the Poles’ with NATO aircraft.
“The authorities of the Republic of Poland, after consultations between the President the Government, are ready to deploy – immediately free of charge – all their MIG-29 jets to the Ramstein Air Base place them at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America,” the Polish Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday. “At the same time, Polrequests the United States to provide us with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities. Polis ready to immediately establish the conditions of purchase of the planes.”
The Poles also requested any other NATO member countries that have MiGs of their own take similar action. Those may include Bulgaria Slovakia.
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Ukrainian defense officials for days have been asking for help with supplies ranging from helmets to ammunition fighter jets – a request that Polappeared ready to fulfill almost two weeks into Russia’s invasion of its smaller neighbor.
Undersecretary of State Victoria Nulsaid during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Tuesday that the announcement was “a surprise move by the Poles.”
“To my knowledge, it wasn’t pre-consulted with us that they planned to give these planes to us,” she said. “But as you know, we have been having consultations with them for a couple of days now about this request from the Ukrainians to receive their aircraft, were they to donate them, whether we would be able to support backfill in their own security needs.”
Earlier Tuesday, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to President Biden urging him to support a deal with Poland.
Ukrainian pilots have been trained on the Soviet-era MiG jets. Poland, which joined NATO in 1999, aims to replace its fleet with used F-16s train its pilots to fly them.
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Polhas 28 MiG-29s that it plans to hover. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, “Ukraine has a broad defense industry capable of…maintaining upgrading Soviet-era combat aircraft.”
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters in London earlier Tuesday that despite the decision, “neither Polor NATO are parties” to the war in Ukraine.
Russia meanwhile has warned that it will view support of Ukraine’s air force as an escalation of the conflict that it may retaliate.
The United Kingdom, which has an advanced air force of its own, said it would support Poland’s move as war rages in Eastern Europe.
“We would protect Poland,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told the UK’s Sky News Tuesday. “We’ll help them with anything that they need.”
President Biden said during his State of the Union address last week that the U.S. allies would defend “NATO territory with the full force of our collective power – every single inch.”
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Almost two weeks into the invasion, Russia has failed to assert air superiority over Ukraine. Defense forces claim to have shot down 48 Russian aircraft, an additional 80 helicopters seven UAVs.
Ukraine’s military has released figures detailing its own losses.
Fox News’ Liz Friden The Associated Press contributed to this report.