Report: US acquires old military aircraft from Kazakhstan at low prices

It has been reported that the US government purchased most of the retired Soviet-era warplanes that were recently auctioned off by Kazakhstan, possibly for use by Kiev’s forces in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Washington was said to be the winning bidder for 81 of the 117 aircraft, acquiring them “through offshore entities” for a combined $1.5 million, according to a report on Sunday. The report didn’t provide a breakdown of how many planes of each type were obtained, but it stated the purchase included MiG-29 fighter jets, MiG-27 fighter bombers and Su-24 bombers. Kazakhstan also offered MiG-31 interceptors in the auction. All of the aircraft were listed as being in “unusable condition,” according to the report, and the costs of modernizing them were deemed economically impractical. The warplanes, which were built in the 1970s and 1980s, were retired under the Kazakh military’s modernization program.

The average unit cost paid by the US was less than $19,000. In fact, the entire fleet of 81 jets cost only about as much as ten AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, one of the air-to-surface munitions commonly used by US drones and warplanes. US officials haven’t declared how the retired Kazakh planes will be used, according to the Kiev Post. “Speculation has grown that – as the aircraft types are all in service with Ukraine – it is likely they will eventually be transferred to Kiev.” If that happens, the newspaper added, Ukrainian forces will likely disassemble the aircraft for spare parts or use them as decoys at airfields. Kazakhstan, which is historically a Russian ally, has increasingly engaged with Western nations since the Ukraine crisis began in February 2022. Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev hosted UK Foreign Minister David Cameron’s visit to Astana earlier this month. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Astana last year for talks with Central Asian leaders.