US refuses replacement F-16s to Bulgaria, recommends MiG-29s

The US will not provide the Bulgarian Air Force [VVS] with F-16 fighters to replace the aging MiG-29s. This was stated today by the acting Minister of Defense of Bulgaria, Mr. Dimitar Stoyanov. According to Mr. Stoyanov, Washington “strongly recommends Bulgaria to continue operating the MiG-29 aircraft,” reports

US F-16 pilot: Su-35 looks good at air shows, but it's junk
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Bulgaria needs fighter jets to fulfill its obligations under NATO membership, as well as to guarantee the security of the Bulgarian airspace. The Air Force currently flies 11 MiG-29 fighters. However, they are too old and some of them need engine repair.

Bulgaria ordered eight F-16 Block 70/72 fighters in 2019. At the end of the year, Sofia paid Lockheed Martin 100% of the requested amount. However, as we know, the worldwide coronavirus pandemic has changed plans and schedules. Thus, the first fighter will not arrive next year, but most likely in 2026.

It is precisely because of these circumstances that Sofia needs replacement fighters. We reported some time ago that the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense sent an inquiry to the USA, and today Washington’s answer became clear.

One of the possible reasons for refusal is perhaps the lack of sufficiently trained pilots. Bulgaria already has F-16 pilots who have returned from the USA, but they are clearly not enough. In this situation, Bulgaria cannot operate the F-16, even if Washington allows it.

US refuses replacement F-16s to Bulgaria, recommends MiG-29s
Photo by USAF Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson

Washington’s refusal to provide replacement fighter jets for a fee leaves a serious hole in the country’s defense. First, Bulgaria will have to repair the engines of the affected fighters. Currently, only Poland and Israel can perform this repair. Russia can too, but because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Bulgaria refuses to use the services of the Russian Federation.

In recent years, has warned several times about the so-called “Russian marketing” towards Bulgaria. That is, the Russian Aerospace Forces [VKS] often deliberately entered the airspace of Bulgaria. In such a situation, Sofia is obliged to pick up and intercept the Russian fighters.

This “exercise” was repeated almost twice a month. In this way, Russia forces Bulgaria to depreciate its old Soviet aircraft more quickly. Their faster wear not only forces Bulgaria to make more frequent repairs, but also weakens the Bulgarian air defense.

32 retired F-16 Fighter Falcons found a new operator in the Balkans
Photo credit: Wikipedia

After the official response from Washington, Minister Stoyanov announced that the Bulgarian government is working on extending the life of its MiG-29s.

Minister Stoyanov answered another parliamentary question concerning the shipment of weapons to Ukraine. The possibility that Bulgaria will use a sum of several hundred million dollars for the purchase of American military equipment if our country provides Ukraine with Soviet military equipment, is no longer considered as such.

I.e. the minister stated that the time for the so-called “triangular deals” has already been dropped. “Triangular deal” means that Bulgaria buys Western weapons from another country and sends Ukraine its weapons.


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