Mongolia Takes MiG-29s as Poland Resumes Operations

 - November 26, 2019, 12:30 PM
One of two MiG-29UBs donated by Russia is seen during the November 26 handover ceremony. (photo: MPA/Mongolian state TV)

Mongolia has accepted a pair of MiG-29UB two-seat fighters donated by Russia under the orders of President Putin. The acceptance ceremony took place on November 26—the nation’s Independence Day—at the military base within the fence of the Chinggis Khaan International Airport that serves the capital city, Ulaan-Baatar.

Speaking at the event, the commander of the Mongolian air force, Brigadier General Enkhbayar, described it as the “opening of a new page for Mongolian aviation.” He added that the two aircraft, received free of charge, will improve the service’s combat efficiency, and enable it to fulfill the primary task of patrolling Mongolian airspace and keeping control of the nation’s borders. Addressing the personnel of 303 and 337 Squadrons, he called upon them to treat the two MiGs as “the symbols of our cooperation with Russia.”

Also speaking at the ceremony, Major General Zabit Khairbekov, deputy commander of the Russian Air and Space Force, noted that Mongolian aviation began operations in 1925 using three Russian-made Junkers F13 transports, which were supplemented six years later by combat aircraft from Soviet stocks. In 1970, the Mongolian air force entered the jet age with the formation of a MiG-17 squadron. In the 1977-1984 time frame, it mastered MiG-21PF supersonic interceptors. The latter remained operational until recently when their structural lifecycles expired.

Numerous media reports from earlier this century suggested that Mongolia would take a handful of MiG-29 and/or Su-27 fighters, but this did not materialize. Left without Russian aid, the Mongolian air force inventory gradually reduced to a few Antonov An-24/26 tactical airlifters and a dozen airworthy Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopters.

President Putin made the decision to resume military aid during his official visit to Ulaan-Baatar in September this year. The two sides signed a protocol on the resumption of an earlier agreement covering military-technical cooperation centered on free-of-charge shipments of military equipment from Russian army stocks. In addition to the MiGs, Moscow has donated a handful of the Pechora-2M medium-range SAM systems.

Russia’s defense ministry provided the following comment: “The ties between Russia and Mongolia have their roots in the long history of cooperation between the two nations. They feature the spirit of good neighborhood, carry a comprehensive character, and develop in the direction of strategic partnership. Regarding the military sphere, the Russian side has always taken an active part in building Mongolia’s armed forces, including providing the Mongolian air force with aviation equipment and training Mongolian personnel.”

In another development earlier this month, Poland made the decision to resume flying its MiG-29s, which have been grounded since March this year following two crashes. With 30 aircraft on strength, the type is the second most numerous tactical aircraft in the Polish air force inventory, after the F-16.

MiG-29 Poland
Poland remains one of the largest operators of MiG-29s, with 30 on strength. (photo: Vladimir Karnozov)