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Slovakia readies transfer of upgraded MiG-29 warplanes to Ukraine

WARSAW, Poland — In a potentially major reinforcement of Ukraine’s air combat capability, Slovakia’s Foreign and European Affairs Minister Ratislav Káčer has announced his country is preparing to transfer Soviet-made Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter jets to the Ukrainian Air Force in coordination with the United States.

“We have not yet handed [Ukraine] the MiG-29s. But we are ready to do it. We are talking with our NATO partners about how to do it,” Káčer told local news agency Interfax Ukraine. “And … we had a very meaningful conversation with [Ukraine’s] president. My defense minister explained to [the Ukrainian] president how we can do this. And I think that, in the coming weeks, a Ukrainian delegation will come to Slovakia, and we will work together with our American friends to make this reality.”

In total, Slovakia secured 24 single-seater and twin-seater MiG-29s following Czechoslovakia’s dissolution, according to data from the country’s Defence Ministry. Of these, the 11 remaining operational fighter jets were withdrawn from service last August.

“The MiG-29s were upgraded in the years 2004-2006, including with NATO-compatible communication and navigation systems,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement. “Slovakia’s 11 remaining MiG-29s will reach the projected end of service life between 2029-2035.”

Káčer’s statement indicates Slovakia is in talks with the U.S. over the best way in which the jets could be transferred to Ukraine. This suggests Bratislava intends to avoid a similar situation to that from earlier this year when Poland unveiled plans to transfer its MiG-29s to the Ukrainian Air Force. However, the initiative was derailed after Polish and U.S. officials engaged in a public discussion over Washington’s potential role in the procurement.

Poland offered to transfer the fighters to the United States which could then handle their delivery to Ukraine, but eventually the two allies failed to reach an agreement.

The Slovak Air Force is awaiting the delivery of 14 F-16 Block 70/72 fighters that are to safeguard the country’s airspace. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2024. In the meantime, the Czech and Polish air forces are policing Slovak skies until at least Dec. 31, 2023.

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

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