AP

EXPLAINER: Why does Ukraine need foreign warplanes?

Mar 6, 2022, 1:23 PM | Updated: 1:35 pm

FILE - Two Polish Air Force Russian made Mig 29's fly above and below two Polish Air Force U.S. mad...

FILE - Two Polish Air Force Russian made Mig 29's fly above and below two Polish Air Force U.S. made F-16's fighter jets during the Air Show in Radom, Poland, on Aug. 27, 2011. In a private video call with American lawmakers over the weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a “desperate” plea to the United States to help Kyiv get more warplanes to fight Russia's invasion and retain control of its airspace. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz, File)

(AP Photo/Alik Keplicz, File)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — In a private video call with American lawmakers over the weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a “desperate” plea to the United States to help Kyiv get more warplanes to fight Russia’s invasion and retain control of its airspace.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Washington has given a “green light” to the idea and is currently “very, very actively” looking at a proposal under which Ukraine’s neighbor Poland would supply Kyiv with Soviet-era fighters and in turn receive American F-16s to make up for their loss.

However, the proposition is fraught with uncertainty and Poland has been less than enthusiastic about it in public, largely because Russia has warned that supporting Ukraine’s air force would be seen in Moscow as participating in the conflict and open up suppliers to possible retaliation. Official comment from NATO and European Union member Poland has been only to confirm continuing talks on the subject.

WHY DOES UKRAINE NEED WARPLANES?

Ukraine’s air force uses Soviet-made Mig-29 and Su jet fighters to defend its skies and territory from Russia’s military invasion that began Feb. 24 and has appealed for more warplanes to be able to continue the mission in the long run.

The air force has been far outnumbered by the much more powerful Russian air force, but Ukrainian pilots have continued to fly combat sorties and claim kills in combat despite repeated assertions by the Russian military that it has suppressed Ukraine’s air power and air defense assets.

WHY NOT US WARPLANES?

Ukraine’s military pilots aren’t trained to fly U.S. jet fighters and would be far more equipped to handle MiG-29 or Su planes that are currently used by former Soviet-bloc NATO members Poland, Bulgaria and Slovakia.

Ukrainian pilots would be able to fly MiGs right away, but Poland isn’t eager to lose significant amounts of its air force without replacements. U.S.-made F-16s are becoming the mainstay of Poland’s air force as it modernizes its military.

WHAT IS POLAND’S RESPONSE?

Blinken has said there is a “green light” for Poland to send planes to Ukraine.

“We are looking actively now at the question of airplanes that Poland can provide to Ukraine and looking at how we might be able to backfill should Poland decide to supply those planes. I can’t speak to a timeline, but I can just tell you we’re looking at it very, very actively,” Blinken said on Sunday in Moldova.

The response from Poland was restrained, though.

“As far as sending planes, I can only repeat that no decisions have been taken on the subject,” government spokesman Piotr Mueller said.

Mueller denied allegations that Poland could be making its airfields available to Ukrainian warplanes. Russia alleges that Romania and some other countries it didn’t name are hosting Ukraine’s warplanes.

Meanwhile, Poland has been supportive of Ukraine both politically, supporting it’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and on a humanitarian level, opening its border to refugees from the non-EU country.

WHY IS POLAND NON-COMMITAL?

Despite it’s supportive stance toward Ukraine in its struggle, Warsaw is facing a crucial and challenging decision regarding making its planes available to Ukraine.

Russia has warned Ukraine’s neighbors against hosting its warplanes on their territory saying Moscow could consider that as their “engagement in the military conflict.” That could mean an opening of hostilities.

Russia’s words could be taken as a wider warning against aiding Ukraine’s air forces.

Poland also borders Russia, through the Kaliningrad exclave, and has a long border with Russia’s close ally Belarus. Relations between Warsaw and Moscow have been at a low point since a right-wing government took office in Poland in 2015.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

One of the main issues is where these MiGs, if made available, would be based as they couldn’t be on NATO soil. It isn’t clear if Ukraine would be able to safely house and service them in the long run, given the warfare on its territory.

Another question to resolve would be how to deliver the planes to Ukraine. Polish pilots, who are also NATO pilots, couldn’t fly them to Ukraine without risking NATO involvement in the conflict, and sending Ukrainian pilots to Poland to fly them back could present similar issues.

There is also an F-16 production backlog, which means the countries that potentially give away their MiGs and Su fighters to Ukraine would need to wait for the backfill for some time.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio summed it up by saying: “There’s complications that come with. It’s not just as easy as handing it over. You got to fly those in. You got to station them somewhere on the ground.

“And … the Russians have launched a pretty — anywhere in between eight to 12 rockets at an airport in the sort of west of Ukraine. And it’s just a part of a strategy to deny them places to move that airframe,” said Rubio, a Republican from Florida.

___

Matthew Lee reported from Vilnius, Lithuania. Tom Strong in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

1 day ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

2 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

9 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

10 days ago

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during...

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized with bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue."

12 days ago

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, stands with his wife, Victoria Osteen, as he conducts a...

Associated Press

Woman firing rifle killed by 2 off-duty officers at Houston’s Lakewood Church run by Joel Osteen

A woman entered the Texas megachurch of Joel Osteen and started shooting with a rifle Sunday and was killed by two off-duty officers.

12 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

...

Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.

EXPLAINER: Why does Ukraine need foreign warplanes?