Bulgarian parliament okays cabinet entering US combat plane purchase talks

Bulgarian parliament okays cabinet entering US combat plane purchase talks 

File image shows a Polish F-16 fighter in the airspace near Powidz, Poland, on Sep 18, 2018. On Jan 16, 2019, the Bulgarian parliament announced on it had authorized the nation’s government to negotiate with the US the purchase of a batch of eight new F-16V Block 70 multirole fighter aircraft. EPA-EFE (FILE)/JAKUB KACZMARCZYK POLAND OUT

Sofia, Jan 14 (efe-epa).- The Bulgarian parliament announced on Wednesday it had authorized the nation’s government to enter negotiations with the United States regarding the purchase of a batch of new F-16 multirole fighter aircraft.

The legislative body’s green light will enable the government, led by populist Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, to enter negotiations for the purchase of eight new single-engine, all-weather, multirole F-16 Viper Block 70 fighter-bomber aircraft that will replace Bulgaria’s aging fleet of Soviet-era Mikoyan MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-25.

The legislative chamber’s decision responded to an offer made by US defense manufacturer Lockheed Martin, who welcomed the announcement on its corporate Twitter page by saying the choice was «ideally suited for Bulgaria’s national defense and will ensure the Bulgarian Air Force operates the most advanced 4th-generation fighter jet in the NATO inventory.»

The Bulgarian decision was preceded by fierce competition on the part of Sweden, who proposed Saab’s latest Grippen aircraft, and Italy, who tried to offer its second-hand Eurofighters.

The purchase is part of the Bulgarian defense project seeking to upgrade the armed forces of the European Union’s poorest country – a NATO member since 2004 – although 90 percent of its arsenal is still Warsaw Pact vintage.

For various reasons, the public tender to supply new defense material has been delayed ever since the collapse of the former Communist regime in 1989-90.

The Bulgarian parliament had previously earmarked 900 million euros ($1.03 billion) until 2027 for the purchase of new planes, weapons, radars, facilities and pilot training.