After the main battle tanks, now fighter jets for Ukraine? The debate about broader support for the country invaded by Russia is entering the next round.
But in Berlin people seem relaxed, at least superficially. It has been said that Germany cannot provide Ukraine with its own fighter jets at all. The Bundeswehr has a total of 231 fighter jets, 93 of which are Tornado and 138 Eurofighters, the “backbone of the German fighter jet fleet”. Both models are on Ukraine's wish list, but as things stand, they won't end up there (for the time being).
The operational readiness of the German fighter jets is already extremely low and the Bundeswehr is only able to carry out its tasks with them with great difficulty, for example monitoring the NATO eastern flank. And the tornadoes in particular are considered old and in need of repairs. In short: the German fighter jets that are still flying at all are needed by the Bundeswehr itself.
In addition, the training of Ukrainian pilots on the machines would take a lot of time. The maintenance and repair of Tornados and Eurofighters might have to be carried out by German personnel on Ukrainian soil. There is little to be said for the delivery of German fighter jets to Ukraine
Ukraine's wish list includes other "Western fighter jets such as the F-16 and F35," as Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk recently wrote on Twitter, but the country will not (for the time being) get those either. Among other things, US President Joe Biden recently rejected these demands from Ukraine, as did Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD).
And yet the German government cannot retreat to the comfortable position that it has nothing to do with the debate about supporting Ukraine with planes – on the contrary. Calls are being made, especially from Poland, to deliver MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.
The advantage for the Ukrainian army would be that their pilots would fly this model anyway, so there would be no need for extensive training. In addition, the supply of spare parts could be secured by cannibalizing older machines and by other former Eastern Bloc countries that also have MiG-29s in their stocks.
The model was developed in the Soviet Union in the 1970s. In the 1980s, the Red Army and the air forces of a number of Warsaw Pact countries were equipped with the fighter jet, and more than 1,500 of them left the Mikoyan Gurevich Aircraft Manufacturing Plant. The National People's Army (NVA) of the GDR put 24 of them into service.
After the dissolution of the NVA as a result of reunification in 1990, the machines became part of the Bundeswehr. In 2003, the Bundeswehr sold 22 of them for the symbolic price of one euro to Poland, a new NATO member at the time, where the machines are still part of the arsenal of the air force. The government in Warsaw is considering delivering MiG-29s from former NVA stocks to the invaded neighboring country - and this is where Berlin comes into play again.
As with the German-made Leopard 2 tanks sold abroad, the German government would also have to give its okay to a transfer to a third country in the case of the MiG-29 of German origin, should Poland submit a corresponding application. As far as is known, this has not yet happened. In any case, Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki recently said on French television that the delivery of combat aircraft could only affect NATO as a whole. The experience of the Russian war of aggression, which has been going on for almost a year, shows that the federal government should soon adopt a stance on this question; the debate on fighter jets for Ukraine is already underway.
Sources: Bundeswehr (1), Bundeswehr (2), Andrij Melnyk on Twitter, DPA and AFP news agencies.