Bulgaria has promised its MiG-29s to Ukraine: donation or sale?
WASHINGTON, US — Although the Bulgarian government has repeatedly denied that Bulgaria provides any assistance to Ukraine with weapons and equipment for the Bulgarian army, leaked Pentagon documents show otherwise.
- Bulgarian-made ATGLs, a copy of SPG-9, were delivered to Ukraine
- Military combat vehicles cross Bulgaria on their way to Ukraine
- Opticoelectron unveiled a new mobile surveillance system Muson 230M
CNN reported, citing a document from the US Department of Defense, that Bulgaria has promised to send fighter jets to Kiev, the Bulgarian media Obektivno.bg wrote in its report. The document is part of more than 100 classified documents released online last week.
American sources reveal that early in late February of this year, Sofia showed readiness to part with its MiG-29 fighters. However, the separation was aimed not at decommissioning, but at the donation of combat aircraft to Kiev.
Waiting for the F-16
Ukraine has been asking Bulgaria to donate its fighter jets for a long time. But both Bulgaria and the report from the USA reveal such a donation as a big challenge for the native Air Force. The reason: Bulgaria will be left without air combat capability since only the MiG-29 can perform the so-called air policing.
Bulgaria expects the delivery of the first eight F-16s, but this will not happen for at least the next two years. It is for this reason that the report identifies a possible donation of MiG-29s to Ukraine as a challenge.
As for the investigation into the leaked documents, everything is at a very early stage, CNN said, citing its sources. At the moment, there is no definite confirmation of who is behind the leaking of the documents, but there are suggestions that “pro-Russian elements may have influence”.
Data that may have been changed is also noted. There is no definite confirmation of this, but “favorable Russian positions” are observed, which until now were not accounted for in this way. At least one of the documents is marked as unclassified but contains highly classified information.
Already last year, BulgarianMilitary.com announced that Bulgaria was looking for fighter jets for hire to take over combat duty over Bulgarian territory. However, then the reason was not a donation to Ukraine, but the impossibility of Bulgaria servicing its Soviet fighters.
Then the Chief of the General Staff of the Bulgarian Army, Admiral Emil Eftimov, in a radio interview on November 16 on the Bulgarian National Radio, announced that the Bulgarian MiG-29s are not subject to repair due to their long-overdue life cycle. It was the situation in Ukraine and the war there that put Bulgaria under the impossibility of buying spare parts from Russia or hiring Russian repair groups.
BulgarianMilitary.com recalls that at the beginning of November 2023, the Parliament of Bulgaria decided to send military aid to Ukraine. From then until today, there is a lot of photographic evidence of the use of Bulgarian grenade launchers, mortars, and ammunition.
What does MoD say?
In response to media reports that Bulgaria has offered to donate its MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, the Ministry of Defence released a statement on Monday saying that sending MiGs for free has not been discussed.
“The Ministry of Defence has not held talks on sending Bulgarian MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine free of charge. Such a decision would lead to a deficit of capabilities, which is contrary to the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Defence and Armed Forces Act. In implementation of a decision by the National Assembly from the end of 2022, the Ministry of Defence successively held talks on the possibilities of implementing the so-called ‘triangular deals’, to replace some of the available weapons with compatible ones from allied countries, without incurring loss of capability,” the statement went.
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