The US Just Spent $20,000 a Piece on 81 Soviet-Era Combat Planes

By: Stephanie Bontorin | Published: Apr 29, 2024

The United States recently made headlines after purchasing 81 Soviet-era combat planes from Kazakhstan, a known ally of Russia.

The report came in from the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, who are still embroiled in a long-term conflict with Russia.

Unknown Need for the Planes

Currently, no reports have been made on the reason for the United States purchasing so many combat aircrafts.

A large fighter get in sky blue sitting on the tar mac of an airport

Source: Boevaya mashina/Wikipedia Commons

Some experts have speculated that the planes might be used for spare parts or as decoys in high conflict regions, as reported by the Kyiv Post.

Russian Ally Upgrading Its Air Fleet

Kazakhstan allegedly sold the planes after needing to upgrade their current combat planes.

An old Soviet-era fighter jet sitting on a grass field surrounded by other decommissioned planes

Source: Mikoyan-Gurevich NATO/Wikipedia Commons

The country auctioned off 117 Soviet-era combat fighter jets and bomber aircrafts. The planes included are MiG-31 interceptors, MiG-27 fighter bombers, MiG-29 fighters, and Su-24 bombers from the 70s and 80s. These styles of planes have been long out of date. 

Declared Value of the Fighter Jets

After reporting the price for the planes, the United States quickly placed a bid on the low priced fighter jets and bombers.

An orange bomber plane flies through the air with the use of a small propellor on the front of the plane

Source: Gary Wann/Unsplash

Kazakhstan reported the sales value for all 117 planes as one billion tenge (Kazakhstan currency), or $2.26 million. Each plane was then sold off for roughly $19,300.

The Planes Are Ultimately Unusable

The same report out of Kyiv stated that the U.S purchased 81 of the aging and unusable warplanes.

An old fighter jet is shot down into a ditch with many broken pieces


Although the planes are essentially worthless, they can still add value to the United State’s assistance in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

Possible Use for the Warplanes

Although the United States certainly wouldn’t have any use for non-functioning Soviet-era bomber jets, the plane’s bodies can still be put to use in Ukraine.

A large grey fighter jet with two seats on an airport runway

Source: Jakub Halun/Wikipedia Commons

Similar jets and fighter planes are still being used in the war-torn country. The Reports say that the aircrafts could be used as similar planes are still in service. The shells of the planes could easily be used as decoy jets when undergoing dangerous missions.


Planes Allegedly Purchased Through an Offshore Company

After the sale was first recorded, a Russian based news paper, the Reporter, has alleged that the United States purchased the planes through an off-shore company.

A dark grey jet with a single seat in the cockpit on a runway for an airplane show

Source: Matti Blume/Wikipedia Commons

An off-shore company is a business that takes place outside of the physical location. They can often be used to purchase and sell things through a more private channel. The U.S. would want to do so to draw suspicion away from themselves during a time of conflict.


Both Countries Are Denying the Accusations

The Pentagon and Kazakhstan officials have denied the reports that they have allowed the United States, a known ally of Ukraine, to purchase the planes.

An aerial view of the pentagon; a large stone building with five sides surrounded by a river and trees

Source: U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer's Mate Johnny Biverta

They released a statement claiming that they would not allow foreign companies to bid on the planes.


Ukraine Continues Long-Standing Use of Soviet-Era Weapons

Although Ukraine is just as advanced as many Western nations, during their war effort, they continue to rely on Soviet-era weapons and large machinery.

A nighttime view of a large ornate tower illuminated with yellow light and a large city surrounding it

Source: Eugene Z/Unsplash

The weapons are usually in somewhat working order and much less expensive for the country to purchase instead of brand-new weaponry. However, they need to make massive upgrades to have a chance against countries using state of the art weapons and gear. 


Use of Frankenstein Air-Defense Systems

Back in December, the Ukrainian Government issued a statement about their use of the improvised “FrankenSAM” air defense systems operating on the front lines of the conflict. SAM stands for surface-to-air missile.

Two old army canons facing over a large city

Source: Dr. Kishan Patel/Unsplash

The system is called such because it’s made of different machines stuck together. The hybrid weapons are often made with support of the United States.


Could the Planes Be Another Frankenstein Project?

Many experts have speculated that the United States purchasing the planes could be another way for the super-power to lend support to Ukraine.

A large jet painted camouflage colors with an open cockpit and the number '48' painted on the side.

Source: Rob Schleiffert/Wikipedia Commons

As many of the planes used by Ukraine are the same model of the planes sold by Kazakhstan, they could be used for parts of decoy missions.


Kazakhstan Has Close Ties to Russia

What used to be a part of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has chosen over the years to continue to align themselves with Russia.

A large fighter jet with a camouflage paint job in flight

Source: Rob Shleiffert/Wikipedia Commons

However, since Russia invaded Ukraine, the country has attempted to separate in an act of self-preservation. Selling the fighter jets to the U.S. in order to support Ukrainian war efforts could cause conflict for the large Asian country.