SOFIA, Bulgaria (BulgarianMilitary.com) – Bulgaria has never been pressured to choose the F-16. “This is a Bulgarian sovereign decision. Bulgaria is our partner, a member of NATO and the EU.” This, the U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria Eric Rubin assured in an interview with BTV on the upcoming talks with the U.S. on the purchase of a new fighter, learned BulgarianMilitary.com.
The diplomat pointed out, although they constantly stated the F-16 to be the best combat aircraft for Bulgaria, our country took the decisions on its own. “We believe that the decision to start negotiations with us was the right, we applaud it, but there was no pressure applied to Bulgaria.”
He said the U.S. was ready to adjust its offer according to Bulgaria’s needs and requirements, including the financial side. Rubin said that he could not comment publicly on what a final contract might look like, prior to negotiations. “But I can say that this will be the subject of negotiations. We will work hard to reach an agreement with the Bulgarian side on a final proposal for a contract that meets the needs and requirements of Bulgaria.”
U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria adds that he considers the procedure as transparent and democratic. “In the end, what we saw was a vote in the democratic parliament, the democratically elected parliament of Bulgaria, which is a parliamentary republic, with a significant majority to start negotiations for the F-16 purchase.”
Eric Rubin dismissed the criticisms of the main U.S. competitors in the Bulgarian procedure – Sweden and SAAB, which has offered the Gripen aircraft, by saying that he did not accept the statements that F-16 is more expensive than the alternatives. He specified that the comparatively higher original price was due to the fact that it included everything – “training, maintenance, infrastructure, and relations with the United States that will last for decades.”
According to him, it is not right for the original price to be criticized without taking into account that the other fighters in the competition in some cases do not even have armament. Their upgrading with weapons and avionics, as well as with other equipment purchased from the U.S. on a commercial basis, might even exceed the price of the U.S. F-16.
He expressed hope that the parliament’s decision to start negotiations with the U.S. would lead to a successful concluding of a contract and a successful sale because, according to his words, the purchase of modern fighters to Bulgaria has been postponed for too long and our Air Force doesn’t have the capabilities it should.
“Nobody talks about a large fleet, but for Bulgaria to have the capabilities necessary to defend itself in the world today, to participate in the defence of the region along with other NATO allies,” the Ambassador stated further. He also notes that any other NATO member state in the region has the F-16 so if Bulgaria buys the U.S. fighter, it will join this group – to fly together, to interoperate and to conduct joint maintenance trainings.
Last week, Sweden’s Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said that the Kingdom of Sweden respected the decision of the Bulgarian Parliament to approve a mandate to start negotiations with the U.S. government on a new F-16 aircraft. Sweden is ready to hold new talks on the topic if it is necessary in the future.
This, he said to his Bulgarian counterpart, Krasimir Karakachanov, during the informal meeting of the Defece Ministers of the EU Member States held on 30th and 31st January in Bucharest, Romania. According to the Bulgarian MoD the Swedish side initiated the meeting.
The Swedish Defence Minister has highlighted the characteristics of Gripen as an excellent alternative to the already-made Bulgarian decision.
During the meeting, Karakachanov and Hultqvist discussed the Kingdom’s experience in restoring compulsory military service. Since the beginning of 2018, conscripts have served in the Armed Forces of Sweden from 9 to 12 months. Minister Karakachanov thanked for the detailed information on this issue and stressed that in Bulgarian society this debate was already on the agenda.
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Sources: News.bg, Mediapool