SOFIA, Bulgaria (BulgarianMilitary.com) – At today’s regular meeting, the Cabinet took a decision to propose to the National Assembly to consider and accept the report of the Council of Ministers as well as to request it to give a mandate to start negotiations with the U.S. on concluding a contract for the acquisition of a new type of combat aircraft. This was announced today by the Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov at a media briefing in the building of the Council of Ministers, learned BulgarianMilitary.com.
The approved plan by the government includes also the Parliament to assign the Council of Ministers to prepare a draft international contract and Bulgaria’s Prime Minister to establish an organization for negotiating, in which the Defence Minister, Finance Minister and the Ministers of the Interior and Economy to participate.
The government wants the draft international contract to deviate from the obligatory requirements set in the updated expenditure project for the acquisition of a new type of combat aircraft.
After the Parliament approves the decision, the Foreign and Defence Ministers, will notify the countries that have submitted documents in the project.
Krasimir Karakachanov pointed out that the negotiations with the U.S. are yet to begin, and at the moment it is too early the final cost and the terms of payment to be said. “We decided to negotiate with the U.S. for the F -16 because their offer is complex and includes equipment and armaments.” According to him, the offers of Sweden and Italy would also exceed the estimated cost approved by Parliament, and the negotiations with the U.S. could not be avoided.
Karakachanov explained that if the Parliament does not approve the government’s decision they will agree, adding that in any situation the most important is to be restored the Bulgarian Air Force’s capabilities to a maximum extend.
The Minister of Economy Emil Karanikolov and the Chief of Defence Andrey Botsev expressed hope that the Parliament would give the government a mandate to start talks with the U.S. counterpart on the purchase of a new type of combat aircraft. And, in the words of the Commander of the Bulgarian Air Force Major General Tsanko Stoykov, a Parliament’s approval of this mandate would be “a historic moment for Bulgarian aviation.”
A day before the Bulgarian Council of Ministers to vote on the decision to start negotiating with the U.S. on the F-16 purchase, the White House issued an official statement on the subject that was sent to the Bulgarian media by the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria.
The statement released yesterday (8th January) says: “The Trump administration welcomes Bulgaria’s defence modernization plans and looks forward to the country’s imminent selection of a new multirole fighter aircraft. The U.S. remains committed to working with the Bulgarian government to tailor the final scope of a potential F-16 sale to meet its budget and operational requirements while still offering superior operational capabilities. We believe that the F-16 Block 70 offers Bulgaria the best possible combination of price, capability and interoperability with other NATO air forces. If the F-16 Block 70 is selected by Bulgaria, it will serve Bulgaria’s air force capably and reliably for decades to come. The F-16 Block 70 also offers state-of-the-art technology. Its acquisition by Bulgaria would give the Bulgarian Air Force the ability to reliably defend Bulgaria’s airspace while operating jointly within NATO with all the other air forces that fly F-16s, including all of Bulgaria’s NATO neighbors. Acquisition of F-16 Block 70 aircraft would further strengthen long-term support and cooperation with the United States Air Force and other NATO air forces. The United States looks forward to continuing discussions with the Government of Bulgaria as this decision moves forward.”
The U.S. government’s statement once again comes at a key moment in the process. Earlier the same day, the main opposition party, BSP, said it would not support the government proposal to start talks with the U.S. on the purchase of F-16 Block 70 and the possibility for the future contract to “deviate” from Bulgaria’s previous compulsory requirements. Their position is not surprising and it is does not differ from the comments of President Rumen Radev, who at the end of last week defined the proposal for negotiations with the U.S. as a “triple blow” against Bulgaria.
Today, the Defence Minister expressed his satisfaction with the U.S. position stated yesterday that they are ready to comply with the Bulgarian requirements.
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Sources: News.bg, BTA