Poland has managed to make their MiG-29s compatible with NATO standards, thus fulfilling one of the requirements for remaining part of the NATO alliance. Poland is the biggest MiG-29 user in NATO with 32 MiG-29 operational (26 MiG-29A and 6 MiG-29UB). These MiG-29s, are very actively used in NATO missions, such as the Baltic Air Policing as well as training NATO pilots how to deal with hostile MiG-29s.
The “4th November” Military Aviation Plant No. 2 in Bydgoszcz completed the modernization of 16 MiG-29 fighters used by the Polish Air Force in collaboration with Israel Aerospace Industries for about $37 million in August 2011. This involved digitization of the onboard aircraft management system. This upgrade was done so it was compatible with systems used by NATO aircraft. This upgrade also improved working conditions for the pilots.
Other modifications included installation of dual-band radio, improved navigation system and fly-by-wire. All the new avionics operate via MIL-Std-1553B mission planning computer which allows analysis before action and afterwards. However the most visible changes are in the imaging data system and a modern HUD in the cockpit.
This modernization effort will be continued, especially to acquire IFF (Identify Friend or Foe) Mark XIIA devices that can use NATO's newest "Mode 5" standard. Together with 48 F-16s the upgraded MiG-29s are a formidable opponent for any Russian threats.
Speaking of Russian threats the biggest problem with Polish MiG-29s is lack of reliable source of new RD -33 turbofan engines. Currently Russia forces Poland to buy them from “private companies” for far above normal price that other export customers, like China, get. There is chance that cheaper RD-33s might be obtained from India, which has acquired license for their production. But this is unlikely as Russia does not like to lose lucrative export sales and will go to extremes to prevent export customers from going to a cheaper source. The problems with spare parts from Russia may be what eventually causes Poland to retire all their MiG-29s before old age forces them to. -- Przemys&&22;aw Juraszek