Modernization of the Bulgarian Air Force – not Related to the Situation in Syria

SOFIA (Bulgaria), April 13, 2018, Author: Galina Zdravkova (Bm), Photo: Bulgarian MiG-29/Krasimir Grozev/

The Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov stated in a talk show of the Bulgarian national television channel bTV on Thursday (12th April) that the current procurement initiatives for fighter jets are not related to the present situation in Syria.

Karakachanov said, “This is a Project from 2016, voted on 1 June 2016.”

The Defence Minister also reminded that when in 2016 the National Assembly voted the costs (BGN1.5 billion) concerning the project for purchasing of fighters, the amount was without VAT, because VAT was not due on such deals. Only 6 months later the Law was amended and VAT is now due on such deals. Therefore, in the project that will be now submitted for review, it shall be explicitly stated that the amount for purchase of the fighter jets is BGN1.5 billion without VAT. Another change will be the number of the purchased aircrafts. It will be specified that they are to be minimum 8, and not 8 or 9 as previously stated. The idea is more participants to be invited, so that the shortlist to be expanded with possible invitations to Boeing (for new F/A-18E/F Super Hornet), Israel (for used F-16 Block 30), and Lockheed Martin (for used and new aircrafts). In this way, when the participants are more, it would be possible an offer to be received for more than 8 aircrafts within the foreseen budget. The condition is the aircraft to be manufactured by a NATO or EU member state.

“We have to modernize our Armed Forces, because 90% of the armaments and machines are manufactured by the USSR before 1989,” explained the Defence Minister and added that the MiG-29s may be used 10-11 years more, for the purposes of which he has arranged signing of an agreement directly with the manufacturer for their maintenance. On 10th April, reported that Krasimir Karakachanov also intends the old Su-25 single-seat, twin-engine jet aircrafts also to be repaired. The Bulgarian Air Forces have 14 Su-25s as of the moment, but only 4 are in operation. The idea of the Defence Minister is all 14 Su-25 aircrafts to be repaired and put into operation. He did not specify when and how that would happen.

In brief:
The Project for purchase of fighter jets for replacement of the old Bulgarian MiG-29s started in 2016 when Bulgaria’s parliament approved a plan in June to get eight new or second-hand fighter jets between 2018-2020.

In 2017, Bulgaria picked the Swedish offer in preference to the offer from Portugal of second-hand U.S. F-16s equipped with U.S. weaponry and an offer from Italy of second-hand Eurofighter Typhoon fighters.

In the end of 2017, the Project was returned to the very beginning.

This year new participants are to be invited to the competition for selection of a supplier of new fighters for the Bulgarian Air Force, one of which is Israel.