Bulgaria inched closer to buying a second batch of eight new F-16 aircraft and related equipment from the United States in a deal valued at $1.30 billion, interim Defence Minister Dimitar Stoyanov said.
The European Union and NATO member country, which had ordered eight Lockheed Martin F-16 jets in 2019, is seeking to replace its ageing Russian MiG-29 fighter jets and improve its compliance to NATO standards.
“Acquiring new aircraft is extremely important for the Bulgarian air force. We have old Soviet aircraft, which we cannot maintain because of the problems that occurred following the conflict in Ukraine,” Stoyanov told reporters.
The interim government has approved the project to acquire eight new F-16, Stoyanov said. The deal needs to be approved by the parliament, which will be convened after the Oct. 2 general elections. The U.S. in April approved the potential sale.
“The new package includes capabilities for strikes air to surface and air to air, meaning we will have one fully-fledged squadron of 16 aircraft,” Stoyanov said.
The Black Sea country is currently holding talks with Poland for the purchase of eight engines to keep its MiG fleet operational until the end of 2023, Stoyanov said.
With the first F-16 jets expected to be delivered to Bulgaria in 2025, the country is looking to lease other military aircraft to cover the expected gap and protect the country’s airspace.
Bulgaria has already sent requests to the United States, Israel, the Netherlands, France and Sweden for the lease of military aircraft that can be used for air-policing activities.
Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi