Previously, there were many predictions that Poland would transfer its entire Su-22M4 attack squadron to Ukraine.
Recently, a video spread online of a variable-sweep wing fighter-bomber Su-22 flying low and fast over a scene that looked like Ukraine. The time the photo was taken is still ambiguous, although the author confirmed that this was a newly recorded image, which attracted a lot of attention from domestic and foreign media.
The question also concerns the Su-22 Fitter in operation. Although the Ukrainian Air Force has a Su-17UM3 Fitter, raising the possibility that this could be the aircraft in question, it is not conclusive. Analysts pay more attention to the fact that Poland maintains a fleet of Su-22s, essentially an export version of the Su-17. Therefore, it is likely that this plane originated from Warsaw.
The media reiterated the possibility that Warsaw may have donated its Su-22s to Kyiv, and the plane that just appeared in the sky could be part of this theory. It is important to note that this is merely an assumption, and there is no specific confirmation to support this view.
The Su-22 is the export version of the Sukhoi Su-17, a 1960s-vintage attack jet with variable-geometry wings like those on the newer Sukhoi Su-24 bomber, which Ukraine does operate. Several eastern European countries bought Su-22s from the Soviet Union—or inherited them as the USSR collapsed in 1991.
According to Defense 24 magazine, the Polish Ministry of Defense has completed a program to extend the service life of 18 30-year-old Su-22 Fitter, including 12 single-seat Su-22M4s and 6 2-seat Su-22M3Ks. The Su-22s, after undergoing the modernization process, will be installed with new avionics equipment, including replacing outdated mechanical clocks with modern displays as well as a flight data storage system. The plan, at present, is for the Polish air force finally to replace the aging Su-22s with new Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighters within the next couple of years.
The most obvious change on Poland’s upgraded Su-22 attack aircraft is that they have a new gray-blue paint color, similar to that of the F-16 fighters serving in the country’s air force. The new control and combat system of the Su-22 will be compatible with current standards of the Polish military as well as NATO. Most notably, the aircraft can carry precision guided weapons produced by NATO, such as the AGM-88 HARM anti-radar missile or the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile, GBU and JDAM guided bombs.
This is an extremely useful detail for Ukraine, because Kyiv is having difficulty receiving many types of high-tech aviation ammunition from NATO, but their fighters are not compatible. Ukraine has received weapons that are not really new such as M-55S tanks or MIM-23 Hawk air defense systems… it is clear that upgraded Su-22 attack aircraft from Poland will still be the combat vehicle that Ukraine hopes to receive soon.
While Warsaw has been a strong supporter of a free Ukraine and hasn’t hesitated to supply its ally with surplus tanks, fighting vehicles and other weaponry, there has been no public discussion of ex-Polish Su-22s cascading to Ukraine. While the Ukrainian air force has lost in combat no fewer than 77 of its 125 pre-war fighters and attack jets, it has received from its allies 45 Su-25s and MiG-29s as replacements—and also has restored to flyable status scores of grounded jets that had been sitting in storage, some for a decade or more.
While sustaining its squadron strength, the Ukrainian air force has focused on adapting its existing jets to carry modern weapons it’s been getting from Kyiv’s European and American allies. The Su-24s carry British Storm Shadow and French SCALP cruise missiles. The Su-25s fire American-made Zuni rockets. The MiG-29s now are compatible with GPS-guided JDAM glide-bombs and HARM anti-radar missiles from the United States; the Su-27s carry the same anti-radar missiles.