EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said that the Union intends to supply military aircraft to Ukraine as part of military assistance. “We are going to supply Ukraine with lethal weapons and even combat aircrafts”, - Borrell said after a meeting of EU foreign ministers.
What exactly the high-ranking European diplomat had in mind, he did not specify. It was hardly a question of some Western European or American combat aircraft. A good pilot, as the aviators themselves say, does not care which car to take off, as long as there are wings. But even aces will not be able to fight, even if not on the most modern, but someone else's aircraft.
If the EU thinks to send Western-made combat vehicles to Ukraine, then in this case Western pilots will have to control them. The other day, the British authorities pointedly stated that they would not object to sending volunteers to Ukraine, if any. I would like to think that London understands what step the British are being pushed to take, and what consequences this may lead to for Great Britain itself.
Therefore, it seems that Borrell most likely had in mind Soviet-made aircraft, which still remain in some countries of Eastern Europe. What kind of "Soviet" potential can be involved in the implementation of the "EU intentions"? It is possible to operate only with approximate figures, since the technical condition of the aircraft is constantly deteriorating, some are already unable to take to the air, some have already been disposed of.
Until recently, Poland had 27 MiG-29 fighters and 18 Su-22 fighter-bombers. What state they are in today is not clear. In fact, they have served the established service life, and due to the lack of funds for the purchase of new combat aircraft, the Polish Ministry of Defense regularly extends their service life on paper. So, for "dryers" the resource was extended until 2024-2026.
Slovakia has 12 MIG-29s, but only four are operational.
In 2010, Hungary retired 28 MiG-29s from service. She also has 16 Su-22 fighter-bombers manufactured in 1981-1983, 13 MiG-23s, including three aircraft that Germany gave away in 1991. However, these planes will obviously not reach Ukraine - Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that his country would not supply weapons to Kiev.
Romania could give away its MIG-21 Lancers, which were upgraded by the Romanian company Aerostar and the Israeli Elbit Systems. There should be more than 20 of these MIGs in total. The Romanians may also return the Ukrainian Su-27 fighter, which recently flew to them, but the pilot is unlikely to agree to return to his homeland.
Until February 2020, Bulgaria had 14 Su-25 attack aircraft, eight of which were recently repaired and modernized in Belarus, and sixteen MiG-29 fighters.
But even if all these planes are sent to Ukraine, how to solve a whole bunch of problems that will inevitably arise with their arrival. First of all, all aircraft at the disposal of the Eastern European Air Forces have been converted to NATO electronic standards, which means that they can be shot down by their own, mistaking them for strangers.
Their performance is also questionable. Tensions that have escalated over the years in relations with Russia, and sanctions have led to the fact that the maintenance of aircraft was carried out very badly. In particular, according to Polish military experts, the combat readiness coefficient of their MiG-29 fighters is 0.5. This figure suggests that none of these MIGs can be relied upon in combat conditions.
Finally, the Ukrainian Air Force is currently experiencing an acute shortage of military pilots. How many of them are left is hardly known even in the Ukrainian defense department. In 2019 and 2020, more than 70 pilots left the service, and in July last year, five more refused to renew their contracts. The other day, another fighter pilot flew to Romania with his car. So, by and large, Borrell's statement about combat aircraft is a figure of diplomatic speech, unless, of course, there are crazy plans for armed intervention behind it, even if under the guise of a volunteer initiative.