No F-16 Block 70/72 for Bulgaria, MiG-29 in the sky again

SOFIA, ($1=1.75 Bulgarian Levs) — The delivery of eight new F-16 fighters to the Bulgarian Air Force has been postponed indefinitely for at least several months, BulgarianMilitary.com has learned, citing a source in the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense and source from Lockheed Martin. The reason – due to the wave of a coronavirus pandemic in the production process of Lockheed Martin there was an unexpected failure.

Therefore, the company will not have time to produce and deliver all eight F-16s to Bulgaria in the planned period 2023-2024.

It is known that the contract for the supply of eight new F-16s worth $ 1.26 billion was signed by the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense and Lockheed Martin in April 2020. The contract provided for the possible delivery of eight more F-16s for Bulgaria, but in case of timely delivery of the first batch of these aircraft.

Bulgaria has ordered the delivery of eight F-16 fighters to finally write off 14 old Soviet MiG-29 fighters, which are constantly lacking components, and Russian contractors from the MiG corporation are constantly postponing repairs.

Russia benefits from the delay

Almost every month, Russian fighters violate Bulgaria’s airspace. Russia knows very well the quality of our old Russian aircraft. They made them before, they sold them to us and they support them.

Here is the logic behind all this action – as NATO and EU members we must keep our borders. We are even an EU external air force border. When a foreign, unidentified and unauthorized aircraft enters our space [most often – the Bulgarian air space over the Black Sea], we are obliged to lift our outdated Russian machines. The more often they are in the air, the faster the flight hours will be spent and the faster the repair time will come.

Who can repair them? Russia. Therefore, the faster our MiGs are depreciated and the more often they are repaired, the more often we will pay Russian manufacturers for their repair.

Why Russia hoped Bulgaria would choose the F-16? Because of the consistency in military production. Great military equipment is always made to order and individually. For example, if Qatar refuses to buy the F-16 Block 70/72, it does not mean that the same aircraft can be sold to the next on the list – Slovenia. No. Qatar’s ‘rejected’ planes will wait for a new similar order so that changes and optimization will be less, and therefore less costly.

When we didn’t buy Saab Gripen we gave up the advantage of getting them on time. If we had agreed to buy Saab Gripen at the moment, the Swedes would have completed a large order for Brazil and it would be our turn immediately. Therefore, SAAB would have fulfilled the order within the set deadlines from Bulgaria and even had a chance to receive the first planes half a year earlier.

Bulgaria wants to sell MiG-29s to buy more F-16s

In October 2020, then-Defense Minister Krassimir Karakachanov said that it is planned to sell MiG-29 fighters after arming F-16 Block 70 multi-role aircraft.

The declaration was made during a meeting of the finance committee of the Bulgarian parliament. Minister Karakachanov stated that when 8 new machines were commissioned, there would be no need to maintain the entire current fleet of MiG-29 aircraft and some of them could be sold.

However, in order to fully withdraw these machines from service, it is necessary to acquire another 8 F-16 Block 70 aircraft. Then it would be possible to fully replace the existing fighters with a full squadron of multi-task machines.

This is important because MiGi-29 has been serviced for years in Russia for rates inadequate to the quality of the machines but also the timeliness and quality of parts delivery, which often arrived late and their documentation was incomplete. That is why it was decided to service them in Belarus.

Bulgaria theoretically has 14 MiG-29 fighters in service today. Why theoretically? Because it is realistically suitable to fly a maximum of half of them and there are no more than two aircraft in the ready state. The rest are cannibalized to keep them in the air.

What aircraft does Bulgaria expect and what equipment?

Here is the complete list of equipment that Bulgaria has requested to buy:

  • 8 F-16 C/D Block 70/72 aircraft;
  • 10 F110 General Electric engines;
  • 10 Link-16 Multi-Functional Information Distribution System (MIDS) – JTRS (MIDS-JTRS);
  • 9 Improved Program Display Generators (iPDG);
  • 9 AN/APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radars;
  • 4 AN/AAQ-33 SNIPER Targeting Pods;
  • 9 Modular Mission Computers (MMC) 7000AH;
  • 9 LN-260 Embedded GPS/INS (EGI);
  • 9 M61 Vulcan 20mm Cannons;
  • 16 AIM-120C7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs);
  • 1 AIM-120C7 Spare Guidance Section;
  • 24 AIM-9X Sidewinder Missiles;
  • 8 AIM-9X Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM);
  • 4 AIM-9X Spare Tactical Guidance Sections;
  • 4 AIM-9X Spare CATM Guidance Sections;
  • 48 LAU-129 Multi-Purpose Launchers;
  • 15 GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II Kits;
  • 15 GBU-54 Laser JDAM Kits;
  • 28 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs (SDB-1);
  • 24 FMU-152 Fuzes;
  • 24 MK-82 Bombs (Tritonal) and
  • 6 MK82 Bombs (Inert).
  • 9 AN/ALQ-211 Internal Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suites;
  • 9 AN/ALE-47 Countermeasure Dispensers;
  • 4,140 Infrared Flare countermeasures, with impulse cartridges;
  • 8,250 each of PGU-27A/B 20mm training and combat munitions;
  • 36 MK-124 Signal/Smoke Illumination devices;
  • 9 APX-126 Advanced Identification Friend or Foe (AIFF) units with Secure Communications and Cryptographic Appliques;
  • 18 AN/ARC-238 UHF/VHF SATURN Radios;
  • 20 Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) II with Night Vision Goggle compatibility;
  • 10 Night Vision Devices;
  • 2 Remote Operated Video Enhanced Receiver (ROVER), Electronic Combat International Security Assistance Program (ECISAP) support.

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