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Bulgarian MoD continues to hide who is absorbing $62M in anticipation of the F-16s

SOFIA, (BM) – Bulgarian Ministry of Defense continues to hide and not provide information on how the $62 million for constructing the infrastructure at the base in Graf Ignatievo for the new F-16 fighters is using, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing the journalist G.A.Angelov.

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As OFFNews wrote, the Bulgarian MoD decided to spend the first part of the money without announcing real public procurements. Until now, the companies chosen to build and deliver the equipment remain a closely guarded secret.

The Ministry of Defense did not answer the questions asked by the Bulgarian media, citing “trade secrets“. OFFNews exercises its right under the Access to Public Information Act (APIA). The press wanted to know how many contracts were signed and with which companies. It is clear from the answer that as of November 26, the Ministry of Defense has concluded agreements for $9,2 million but refuses details about the arrangements and contractors. The interests of third parties were affected, who explicitly refused to provide the requested public information, Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Defence Atanas Zapryanov answered. He referred to Art. 37, an. 1, item 2, in which is written – “access affects the interests of a third party, and he has explicitly refused to provide the requested public information, except in cases of overriding public interest.” Zapryanov and the Ministry of Defense’s political leaders believe that spending $62 million does not deserve the public interest.

The story of hiding information has a sequel. The Minister of Defense Krassimir Karakachanov himself refuses the same information – about the already concluded contracts of the GERB MP Hristo Gadzhev, a member of the Defense Committee. He argues that this information has already been requested under the APIA and rejected. The third parties have been affected, and they will not answer. Be also given to the MP from the ruling party. The date of the reply is December 2, 2020.

The Ministry of Defense awards public procurement for construction of new buildings and facilities and modernization of the existing infrastructure in the area of ​​Graf Ignatievo Airport under Part Four “Special Rules for Awarding Public Procurement in the Fields of Defense and Security” of the Public Procurement Act. This loophole in the law was made by parliament early last year. According to the amendment, the Bulgarian MoD may award contracts in defense and security up to $520,000 without an open public procurement. “For supplies of sensitive equipment, including parts, components or assembly elements for it, and up to $6,2 million – for construction”. Bulgarian MoD can awards these contracts directly. The contracting authorities are obliged to conclude a written agreement. “According to the above provisions, there is no obligation for the contracting authority to publish information on the awarded contracts in the Public Procurement Register maintained by the Public Procurement Agency,” Karakachanov said.

In his answer to Hristo Gadzhev, Karakachanov wrote about the other projects that will be assigned next year that they are planning. According to OFFNews sources, almost all companies are already determined. The contracts are signed by the end of this government’s term.

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The new buildings and facilities planned for construction are hangars for servicing and repairing F-16 Block 70 aircraft, laboratories, workshops, warehouses, training complex, etc. It is also intended to establish an area for operational preparation of the F-16 Block 70 aircraft with eight shelters, maneuvering sites, and taxiways. The runway, taxiways, service roads, and the military area’s perimeter fence will be modernized.

Although Karakachanov’s response to Gadzhev is essentially lacking, much of the text is replete with assurances that all legal rules are followed in the ministry entrusted to him. Companies’ choice is made based on their technical and professional abilities and under strict control in favor of public interest. The Bulgarian MoD also noted that it has a strict anti-corruption plan.

Bulgaria is considering to buy additional F-16s and three ground radar systems

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov announced that his country is considering buying additional F-16 Block 70 fighters, the so-called F-16V, the latest version of this machine, as we reported last month. In addition, it is also considering the purchase of other weapons and equipment, including three three ground radar systems.

These are exactly eight more F-16s that would join the eight machines of the same type and version, which were financed last year. In this way, Bulgaria would have a total of 16 aircraft, which would create a fully-fledged multi-role squadron.

Last year, after a very long and painful process for its budget, Bulgaria purchased eight F-16 Block 70s for $ 1.2 billion with an accompanying package. Currently, these machines are in production and pilot training is underway. Interestingly, in June, reports appeared that after the implementation of the first eight F-16s, Bulgaria would want to withdraw and sell 15 MiG-29 fighters currently in its possession.

These machines are currently in a very poor state of repair and at most a few are operational. It is related, inter alia, with the failure to comply with renovation contracts by the Russian company RSK MiG.

Just two days ago (October 14), information was released that RSK MiG provided Bulgaria with compensation in the amount of 185 thousand. EUR. It is precisely a contract from 2018, under which the Russians were to renovate eight of the 15 MiGs for EUR 40 million, so that they could fulfill the tasks of air policing.

Failure to comply with the agreement puts into question not only the ability of Bulgarian combat aviation to fulfill even the simple tasks of protecting its own airspace in peacetime, but also the ability to maintain the habits of pilots.

In this situation, it is not surprising that in June there were reports that after the first eight F-16s were put into service, the Bulgarians wanted to sell the MiG-29 and immediately order another eight American planes. It appears the Bulgarians planned to operate eight of them as a transitional solution and then phase them out as the second F-16s were introduced.

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However, considering the delivery time of the first eight machines is not expected to end until 2024, this would mean that the next order would not take place until the middle of this decade, and the deliveries – probably at the end of it. This is an extremely long time horizon, especially considering the current technological progress. The Bulgarians would put the full F-16 squadron on standby on the eve of the entry into service of such systems as Tempest, FCAS / SKAF and at times when the Russian Su-57 can reach maturity.

The statements of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov quoted at present may, however, prove that the Bulgarians will not wait so long for the order of the second F-16 eight, and that the profession experienced on the Russian side will encourage them to buy the F-16 earlier.

Bulgaria revealed Russian spies interested in army’s modernization and F-16s

The prosecutor’s office revealed on September 24 that two Russian diplomats carried out intelligence activities on the territory of Bulgaria.According to Bulgarian news agency, it is about the deputy trade attachés at the Moscow representation in Sofia – Sergei Nikolashin and Vadim Bikov.

It is also clear from the information of the prosecutor’s office that the unregulated activity of the “sales representatives” has been carried out since 2016. At that time only Nikolashin was in Bulgaria, while Bikov arrived in Bulgaria last year. This clearly shows that although the Bulgarian authorities have taken radical measures, the Russian side in no way gives up its attempts to influence the processes in our country and especially on the Euro-Atlantic orientation of Bulgaria, and hence the Balkans.

This is evidenced by the evidence gathered against the two, whose activity can be summarized in three directions. All related to defense and our military industry.

It was established that Nikolashin and Bikov were looking for classified information about the plans for the modernization of the armed forces. Undoubtedly, this includes information about the capabilities and capacity for the maintenance of new ones F-16 aircraft, block 70, whose arrival is expected in a few years, as well as the intentions of our army to acquire unmanned aircraft.

The second area in which Russian intelligence has worked is identifying and contacting key MoD officials on whom public procurement depends and concluding contracts with foreign contractors. Here, in addition to the military, the Russian side also has a purely financial interest. Although Bulgaria has long been a member of NATO, our country continues to pay huge sums to Russia for the repair of old equipment.

There are many examples of incorrect implementation of contracts by the Russian side, as well as poor quality repairs. However, the long years of Russian influence and established dependencies often put the Bulgarian armed forces in a situation in which the executors of the repairs of the obsolete Soviet armaments were determined not in Sofia but in Moscow.

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Particularly interesting is the third area in which Russian military intelligence has acted – the acquisition of classified information about the Bulgarian defense industry, its production capabilities and its development plans. Of strategic, political, economic and military interest for the Russian side is Bulgaria to lose its traditional markets for quality and relatively cheap products.

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