There’s a special irony to the Ukrainian Air Force receiving a shot in the arm in the form of MiG-29 fighter jets. These are, of course, Soviet-era jets made primarily in Russia, with the oldest ones dating back to the late 1970s. However, their age doesn’t mean they’re bad. The MiG-29 is an incredibly agile plane, regarded as on par with more modern fighters like the U.S. F-18 when it comes to it ability to handle tight turns and fast maneuvers.
But the Russians gave them away like popcorn.
They did this because the MiG-29 has a very limited range (less than 900 miles), meaning that it can’t stay airborne for more than an hour or two and can’t reach far into enemy territory. For the Russians, whose plans called for fighting aggressive campaigns where fighters would be conducting long sorties, this was inadequate. So Russia sold MiG-29s everywhere and even gave them away in efforts to improve relations. You can find them in air forces on every continent short of Antarctica. Even the U.S. military has some for testing purposes.
As a result of hundreds of these dated planes being out there, a whole industry grew up around updating the electronics and other systems in MiG-29s, making the current planes more of a “multirole” weapon, capable of performing limited support and bombing operations in addition to plane-to-plane combat. The “Ghost of Kyiv” — if he or she actually exists — supposedly flies a MiG-29.
And now Ukraine is getting more of them.