The U.S. is exploring a deal in which Poland would send Soviet-era MiG-29 aircraft to Ukraine in return for American F-16 jet fighters, Secretary Blinken said on Saturday, in the latest bid to help Ukraine respond to Russia’s invasion.
The deal would require White House approval and congressional action, U.S. officials said. Since U.S. congress has bipartisan support for Ukraine, a State Department approval to replenish Polish stocks with F-16 would pass congressional votes.
The official added that Ukrainian aircraft had suffered some losses, including being destroyed by Russian forces, but did not give details. After the opening salvos of the war on February 24, analysts expected the Russian military to try to immediately destroy Ukraine’s air force and air defenses.
Russia has fired more than 500 missiles at Ukrainian targets since the start of the invasion, but is still flying through contested airspace.
Ukrainian pilots are trained on Soviet-era MiG-29 aircraft and they have the munitions ready, should the Poles transfer their MiG-29 to Ukraine.
While the Russians have been under-performing, Ukraine’s military has been exceeding expectations so far.
Ukraine’s experience from the last eight years of fighting with Russian-backed separatist forces in the east was dominated by static World War One-style trench warfare.
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