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Some Underwater Stones in Military Deals That May Cost Billions



Some Underwater Stones in Military Deals That May Cost Billions

SOFIA (Bulgaria), July 5, 2018, Source: Mediapool, Nikola Lalov, Photo credit:

The government intends within the next several months to solve the three biggest projects for the modernization of the Army – the purchase of new type of fighter jets, armoured vehicles and ships, which represent the most serious investment program in the Army since 1989.

The total value of the future deals will be about BGN 4 billion and they will predetermine the development of the sector for the coming decades. Although the need of new armaments and equipment is indisputable, there are many unclear, non-transparent and controversial issues around the three projects that may compromise the modernization process and threaten the stability not only of the Army, but also of the whole country.

According to sources of Mediapool the Government is working the hardest on preparing the deal for new armoured vehicles that will worth over BGN 1.46 billion. Exactly it, however, is the most non-transparent one. Tax payers have not any information about the activities of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), and even the major technical requirements of the needed machines are not known.

This allows of many speculations related to the Project, which concerns many different interests – business and political ones.

The main issue related to the aircraft Project is that it shall be made a choice between new and second-hand aircraft. The comparison is extremely difficult and in a similar situation Slovakia stopped the Project after having prepared it for years.

The future of the third Project – the purchase of two new patrol boats, is the vaguest, because of the limited budget. According to experts, there are very little chances the deal to fit in the planned budget – BGN 984 million. Although there are no such indications yet as the Project is in its initial phase, it is possible the Navy to lower the requirements for the required by them ships.

In general, however, experts in the sector are wondering if there will be a deal at all.

What is the schedule?

According to the schedule of the Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov, up to 25th July it shall be sent the invitations for offers for the projects for new types of fighters and for armoured vehicles. The deadline for submission of questions and clarification is 15th August. Up to 25th October the offers shall be received, and four days later – opened.

In November the offers shall be evaluated, and at the begging of December tests for the parameters of the machines shall take place. The contracts shall be concluded on 19th and 20th December.

Having in mind the past practice, it is likely that the schedule to suffer delays, but the political leaders of the MoD has already declared several times the ambition to conclude the deals by the end of the year.

The boat Project has been not discussed yet by the Parliament, and that is why it will suffer a delay of a few months.

The armoured vehicles: Lack of transparency and fuzzy political responsibility

At the moment, the Project for the armoured vehicles is in information blackout. Unlike the fighter jet Project, which is detailed, there is quite general information about it.

The Land Forces state that there is technical information about each required machine, but it is not public.

These details are key for the future selection as there are big differences between the offered machines.

Another specific fact is that this Project is entirely given in the hands of the military. Unlike the other two projects, there is no responsible Deputy Minister of Defence appointed for that one. It is not clear as of the moment what this reason for that is.

Underwater stones are also hidden in the set requirement the machines to be assembled in Bulgaria, which may make the order more expensive.

The fighters: almost an impossible choice

In the fighter Project, the main difficulty will be the choice, which shall be made between new and old aircraft.

The main competitors will be the Swedish new Gripen fighters and the second-hand F-16 from Israel or from Portugal and the USA.

The MoD wants also offers for newly-manufactured combat aircrafts F-16 Block 60 (or 70) and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, second-hand F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, new or used Dassault Rafale (France), new or second-hand Eurofighter, but probably Bulgaria will not be able to afford them.

The Ministry of Defence submitted the Project to the Council of Ministers for a second time. Last year, the Parliament returned the old Project for further development, explaining that the offers of Portugal and the USA for a second-hand F-16 were excluded from it due to formal reasons because payment in instalments was not offered.

Already during the parliamentary control experts warned that it is offered in the Project a choice between new and used aircraft, which is very difficult.

Now the case is repeated, and offers are requested for new and old fighters.

Last month, the Slovak Government postponed its decision whether to purchase U.S. F-16 fighters or the Swedish Gripen, and the Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini explained that he wanted to see comparable offers.

Whatever algorithm is used by the Bulgarian Air Force, in all cases there will be pros and cons the choice made and probably the debate will prolong the Project again.

It is also possible that boats at that price may not be found

Last week, the Government also gave the green light to the Project for the purchase of two new patrol vessels for the Navy at BGN 984 million with VAT.

The Project for the new boats was in the finals, but at the end of last year, the only company that had submitted an offer – MTG Dolphin based in Varna, surprisingly gave up at the last minute.

The decision was not officially commented by the company, but it was explained by the MoD that it was due to the reduced cost of the Project. Initially, it was worth BGN 820 million, which had to be paid within the next five years. After legal changes had led to charging of VAT on military projects, the money for the deal was reduced by more than BGN 164 million.

Already last year, however, it was clear that even BGN 820 million would not be sufficient for finding enough candidates, and the Navy warned that the Project would increase its value with each passing day.

Now, the MoD finds itself in approximately the same situation. This time, however, it has also envisaged two new options for acquiring the boats: “purchasing of a new defence product (modified for the needs of the Navy) or licensed production and a combination of developing a new product and modifying an existing one.”

It is not yet clear whether and how these options would affect the Project and technical specifications of the ships, but it is clear that the Navy is trying to provide more options for the future suppliers.

It will be of significant importance the Government to clear up the doubts that the Project is being prepared for a particular company, which doubts existed during its first edition.

Worries and bad practice

At this stage the Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov remains moderate in connection with the future of the projects.

“We have worries. We have worries about all projects. Why shall we deceive ourselves and talk beautiful things? Everything may happen. It is also possible that offers are not submitted at all. Although there is interest in all three projects – the two voted ones and the one which is to be submitted. Interest is shown by companies, and they are not one or two,” said Karakachanov in front of the deputies from the parliamentary military commission.

“You saw what happened last year with the boats. In fact, only one company submitted an offer. Others showed interest, asked questions: can’t we change this, change that, mostly in relation to the prices and VAT. We cannot! It was voted in this way by the Parliament. Finally one company submitted an offer. We have worries, but as it is said, we will try to fulfil the work that depends on us in the best way and we will hope things to happen after that,” added Karakachanov.

Far more dangerous option than non-implemented projects, however, is the deals to be concluded, but not to lead to a qualitative change and the new machines to stay in the hangars, because it has turned out that it is not exactly what we need and is very expensive for maintenance.

In that respect the military have significant experience.

Against the spent hundreds of millions of levs during the past 15 years almost no combat capabilities have been acquired, and some of the signed contracts are emblematic with their poor planning and implementation.

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Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Defence Partakes at Joint Session of the EU Defence and Foreign Ministers



The Bulgarian Dep. MoD Zapryanov is Among the New Chairs for the EDA Steering Boards
Photo credit: News Agency BGNES

SOFIA, Bulgaria ( – Yesterday, a Bulgarian delegation, headed by the Deputy Minister of Defence Atanas Zapryanov, has arrived in Brussels, Belgium in order to take part at a two-day joint session of the EU Foreign Affairs and Foreign Affairs (Defence) Councils, learned

The indicative program of the event, which is taking place on 19 and 20 November with the participation of the Defence Ministers and the Foreign Ministers of the EU member states, in general includes two separate meetings of the EU Foreign Affairs Council and the EU Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) as well as a joint session of Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministers (Roundtable). There, the participating EU Ministers are discussing issues related to the EU cooperation in security and defence and the initiatives of the implementation of the EU Global Strategy in this area.

Read more: Bulgarian Deputy Defence Minister Spoke about EU Defence Initiatives at The Economist Magazine Conference

The agenda of yesterday’s joint session of the EU Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministers involved discussions on security and defence issues, including the permanent structured cooperation (PESCO), the European Defence Fund, the coordinated annual review on defence (CARD) and military mobility. The members are also expected to have approved and a new, second set of PESCO projects, which includes the Bulgarian project proposal for a modular unit for rapid deployment in underwater operations. The project has been developed by the Bulgarian Navy and is identified as a priority for building the EU’s defense capabilities.

Today, before the EU Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) meeting, the steering board of European Defence Agency is set to held a session under the chairmanship of Federica Mogherini, the Head of the Agency. During it, the ministers are expected to approve the proposed Agency’s 2019 general budget, which reflects the increasing demands on the EDA and the new tasks, deriving from the new PESCO and CARD (Coordinated Annual Review on Defence ) initiatives. The discussion involves the CARD trial run and the three-year planning framework 2019-2021, which is set to be also approved within the meeting.

Read more: The Bulgarian Dep. MoD Zapryanov is Among the New Chairs for the EDA Steering Boards

After that, the EU Defence Ministers are scheduled to have their own session in order to discuss NATO-EU cooperation and the latest developments in this collaboration, in the presence of the NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

The Belgian joint session of the Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministers, will conclude with talks on the EU’s missions and operations under the Common Security and Defence Policy.

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Source: MoD of the Republic of Bulgaria

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Boeing’s F-18 Super Hornet Dropped out of the Competition for Bulgarian New Fighters



Photo credit:

SOFIA, Bulgaria ( – The U.S. proposal of Boeing F-18 Super Hornets for the new Bulgarian fighter has been disqualified as a non-responsive bid. This was stated in an interview by the Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Defence, Atanas Zapryanov, who added that the Boeing’s offer was incomplete and structured only as an intend, learned

Read more: Bulgaria Considering Boeing Super Hornets to Complement MiG-29s

Having in mind that the appointed committee of experts has refused to consider and evaluate Boeing’s F/A-18s bid, now Bulgaria selects between Lockheed Martin’s F-16s, Swedish Gripen fighters, and Leonardo’s second-hand Eurofighter jets. It is a known fact that the real competition will be between the first two offers, given that the representatives of the Bulgarian government have repeatedly stated that they want to buy new fighters for the Bulgarian Air Force.

Read more: The New Bulgarian Fighter Will Be Selected from among Four Bids

Another thing that Atanas Zapryanov revealed in his interview is that the conclusion of the contract will be delayed as there are no longer any set deadlines for the completion of the project. In regard to this, he commented: “We decided to use the positive experience of organizations such as NATO and the EU – if you want to achieve a good result, you do not have to set time parameters but to set quality parameters. We do not want to rush at the expense of the offers’ quality, we want to work as long as it is possible. Of course, as quickly as possible, but still do not restrict the participants to give us the maximum information we need.” Then, he emphasized that there are parameters for which, if the information is missing, bids cannot be further considered and evaluated.

Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Defence pointed out that the first expert committee, which was in charge with the analysis of the proposals, has already completed its work and has identified what additional information is needed, without rating the offers, because the group has no such obligation. Now the second political-military group, consisting of deputy ministers, will negotiate with the bidders in order to persuade them to provide all the necessary information and to improve their bids. The final decision will be political.

In general, Atanas Zapryanov said that at the moment there is no “ideal offer”. According to his words, they all are valid, but need further clarifications and improvements, adding that“there is much, much information to be clarified.”

Read more: Bulgaria’s Defence Minister Confirms the Delay of the Deal for the New Fighter

Bulgarian Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov also officially confirmed that the Boeing offer for new F / A-18s has dropped out and now the appointed committee will evaluate the other three offers, however he did not state any time parameters for the selection of a contractor.

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Source: Mediapool

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Bulgarian Navy Frigate Drazki Joins NATO Operation “Sea Guardian”



Photo credit: MoD of the Republic of Bulgaria

BURGAS, Bulgaria ( – On 16 November, the Wielingen-class frigate Drazki, part of the Bulgarian Navy division of patrol ships for the NATO-led Mediterranean „Sea Guardian – 2018”, has sailed from its home port based in the town of Burgas, in order to take part in the operation, learned

The frigate, which is set to participate in the NATO operation as part of the NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) employed in the Mediterranean Sea, has been sent to its mission with an official send-off ceremony, held last Friday. During it, the commander of a fleet of battle and auxiliary ships, fleet admiral Malen Chubenkov wished the crew successful implementation of the assigned tasks and safe sailing.

Read more: Topic related to NATO’s presence in Black Sea again subject to internal debates in Bulgaria

The sailing of the Bulgarian vessel includes several stages. During the first one, the ship will transit to the Suda port and will be engaged in the Passage Exercise (PASSEX), together with a vessel of the Hellenic Navy. Then the Drazki frigate will join the formation of the NATO tactical group.

Read more: U.S. and Bulgarian Navy Servicemen Participated in Joint Exercise in Varna

Along with the SNMG2, the Bulgarian vessel will participate in the NATO’ maritime security operation „Sea Guardian”, which aim is to maintain maritime situational awareness, deter and counter terrorism and enhance capacity building. In addition to „Sea Guardian”, Drazki will become part and of the Israeli Navy’s exercises „Crystal Sea”. In the port of Haifa, the participation in the NATO operation and in the training of the Israeli Navy will be analyzed. Upon leaving Haifa port, the Bulgarian warship will take part in a PASSEX-type training, along with ships from the Navy of Israel.

Read more: The Bulgarian and Romanian Naval Forces Started their Annual Exercise Poseidon 2018

Earlier this year, the mine hunter “Tsibar” of the Bulgarian Navy, has sailed to a 39-day overseas mission as part of the fleet of the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2). It has been involved in the mine warfare exercise “Nusret 2018” led by the Turkish Navy in the Aegean Sea, as well as in the Bulgarian-Romanian “Poseidon 2018”.

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Source: MoD of the Republic of Bulgaria

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Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces Arrived in Bulgaria to Discuss Military Cooperation Expanding



Photo credit: MoD of the Republic of Bulgaria

SOFIA, Bulgaria ( – Yesterday, the Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Andrey Botsev welcomed an Armenian military delegation headed by the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Armenia, Lieutenant General Artak Davtyan, who pays a two-day formal visit to Bulgaria at the invitation of Andrey Botsev himself, learned

On the first day of the visitation,  a meeting was held to discuss prospects for expanding military cooperation between the two countries, with the participation of the Deputy Chiefs of Defence, the Commander of the Joint Forces Command, commanders of the Land Forces and the Air Forces as well as directors of Directorates of the Defence Staff.

Read more: General Andrey Botsev (Bulgaria) Attended a NATO Military Committee Conference

The Bulgarian Chief of Defence stated that this meeting allowed the participants not only to examine in detail the directions for further partnership, but also to exchange information on the development of the armed forces of both countries as well as on the participation in international operations and joint exercises.

In front of his interlocutors, Andrey Botsev stressed on the training and education of the military personnel as a very important element of the overall establishment of the armed forces and emphasized the possibility of future work towards expanding the collaboration between the military educational institutions of Bulgaria and Armenia.

“We believe that joint training and exercises are a good opportunity for cooperation and exchange of experience for establishing, certifying and supporting interoperable military formations,” the Bulgarian Chief of Defence said.

In addition to the prospects for expanding the bilateral military cooperation, the Bulgarian and Armenian participants at yesterday’s meeting also held talks on the common areas of interest and the possibilities for interaction concerning the partnership of the Republic of Armenia with NATO and the European Union.

Besides their meeting, earlier the same day General Andrey Botsev and Lieutenant General Artak Davtyan laid wreaths and flowers at the Monument to the Unknown Soldier in the centre of Sofia.

The schedule of the Armenian delegation in Bulgaria also included a visit to the Bulgarian Defence Minister, where Krasimir Karakachanov mainly discussed with his official guests the development of cooperation between the two countries in the field of defence.

Read more:
A Delegation of the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence Will Visit the USA

It was pointed out that the visit of the Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Artak Davtyan to Bulgaria, contributes to developing the dialogue and strengthening the relationships between the two countries in the field of defence, based on mutual respect and understanding.

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Source: MoD of the Republic of Bulgaria

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