Ukroboronprom a Ukrainian defense contractor is offering to pay Russian pilots who defect with working aircraft payments of up to $1 million and “the issuance of citizenship in a free country”.
Ukroboronprom has promised to pay up to $1 million in U.S. dollars for fighter jets and $500,000 for helicopters.
Ukroboronprom’s CEO Yuri Gusev made the offer on Facebook, asking that users share the post far and wide. Since then, the post has disappeared, but it’s unclear why; Ukroboronprom’s offer still stands in a March 8 statement on its website. There, the company says it will pay $1 million for “every combat-capable stolen or trophy” aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces, and $500,000 for “every combat helicopter.”
Further, the statement notes that Russian pilots must “surrender to Ukrainian authorities along with the military hardware.” Recognizing that a Russian pilot who delivers their aircraft to enemy hands may have a rough time re-assimilating into the private sector, Gusev said in his original Facebook post that Ukroboronprom will “guarantee the issuance of citizenship of a free country to Russian pilots ready to participate in the program!” The free country is implied to be Ukraine. The citizenship offer is notably absent from the post on Ukroboronprom’s website.
This deal is apparently not just idle chatter. On March 10, Visegrad 24 — which bills itself as the news aggregator for the Visegrad Group of four Central European nations (Czechia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) — tweeted:
Back during the Cold War, Soviet pilots flew their planes to the West as “defectors”, and while there were not many, such defections did occur.
Related Article: List Of All Russian Fighter Jets Defection Incidents In The History
Historically, a number of countries have offered bounties to pilots who defect with their planes.
For example, in September 1976, 29-year-old Soviet Air Defense Force Flight Lieutenant Viktor Belenko flew his MiG-25 about 400 miles to a provincial airport on the Japanese island of Hokkaido (the runway was too short, and Belenko ended up ditching it at the end), and announced that he was defecting.