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Bulgarian Military News

Bulgaria’s former defense minister put on trial amid procurement irregularity allegations

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A court in Sofia, Bulgaria, has initiated the trial of former Bulgarian Defence Minister Nikolay Nenchev, who has been accused of abuse of office over two military procurements. They include the contract to overhaul the country’s Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter jets, which was initially awarded to Polish state-run defense companies amid protests by Russia’s RSK MiG, and a military uniform procurement.

President Rumen Radev, who previously served as the commander of the Bulgarian Air Force, is scheduled to testify April 12, according to local news agency Focus.

Last January, Radev, whose candidature was supported by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, appointed Ognyan Gerdjikov as the country’s caretaker prime minister ahead of the early parliamentary election that will take place March 26. Nenchev is running for a position in the country’s parliament as a representative of the opposition center-right Reformist Bloc, and his attorney petitioned the court to postpone the trial. However, the appointed judge ruled against it.

In October 2015, the Russian aircraft maker sent a letter of protest to the Bulgarian parliament’s Defense Committee after Nenchev and his Polish counterpart signed a letter of intent under which six MiG-29s would be upgraded and serviced by Polish plants. The minister responded by saying that Warsaw’s offer was “two times lower” than what Sofia was offered by Moscow, but the deal was eventually scrapped.

A probe launched by Bulgaria’s incumbent government identified irregularities in 45 of the 85 procurement deals signed by the Defence Ministry in 2016, according to cabinet officials. Nine of the contracts have been submitted to Bulgarian prosecutors for further investigation. Among others, the prosecutor’s office in Sofia is accusing Nenchev of endangering the safety of Bulgaria’s military pilots in relation to the outstanding aircraft overhaul.

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The Bulgarian Navy Corvette Bodri Is Participating in Sea Breeze 2018

The Bulgarian Navy Corvette Bodri Is Participating in Sea Breeze 2018

SOFIA, Bulgaria (BulgarianMilitary.com), 16 July 2018, Editor: Galina Zdravkova, Photo credit: Bulgarian Ministry of Defence

The Bulgarian Navy Pauk-class corvette “Bodri” (Brisk) from the 1st Patrol Ships Division is participating in the U.S.-Ukrainian naval drills Sea Breeze 2018. The exercise that began on 9th July will continue until 21 July 2018, learned BulgarianMilitary.com

The exercise is being conducted within the sea space of Ukraine. Besides the Bodri corvette, ships of the naval forces of Ukraine, the USA, Georgia, and Turkey are also taking part in the drills.

The exercise is planned in three phases. The first phase (till 10th July 2018) involved working coordination meetings in base conditions.

The second phase (from 11th to 13th July 2018) covered trainings on sea fighting against air, underwater and surface enemies, as well as on shipping control, tactical manoeuvring and transfer of light cargo and mail at sea.

The third ongoing phase includes preparation of a preliminary analysis of the exercise and a closing ceremony.

On 18 July 2018 the corvette Bodri will return to the Naval Base Location Varna in Bulgaria. The commander of the Bodri is Captain 3rd Rank Nikolai Tsonev.

The Pauk class is the NATO reporting name for a class of small patrol corvettes built for the Soviet Navy and export customers from 1977 to 1989. These vessels are developed for coastal patrol and inshore anti-submarine warfare. They are fitted with a dipping sonar which is also integrated and used in Soviet helicopters. 45 boats were built for the Soviets, of which 18 have remained in Russian Navy service. In 1989 and 1990 two ships were transferred to Bulgaria for the needs of the Navy, one of which is Bodri (Brisk) and the othe one – Reshitelni (Decisive).

Among the other operators of the Pauk class of vessels are the Russian Navy, Russian Coast Guard, Indian Navy, Cuban Navy, Vietnam People’s Navy, Ukrainian Sea Guard.

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The Bulgarian Naval Exercise BREEZE 2018 is Ongoing

The Bulgarian Naval Exercise BREEZE 2018 is Ongoing

SOFIA, Bulgaria (BulgarianMilitary.com), 16 July 2018, Editor: Galina Zdravkova, Photo credit: Bulgarian Ministry of Defence

The Bulgarian exercise BREEZE 2018 with international participation that has started on 13th July is ongoing and will continue till 22nd July. This is a joint training between Bulgarian and foreign service members on activities during operations for check-ups of ships-intruders and during acts of maritime terrorism, learned BulgarianMilitary.com

The Bulgarian Naval Forces are taking part with 16 combat and auxiliary ships and cutters, 2 helicopters and staff of 930 members. Two aircraft of the Bulgarian Air Force and representatives of the Land Forces are also involved in the exercise.

The total number of the countries participating in the exercise is 11 with 25 combat and auxiliary ships and cutters, 1 submarine, 4 aircraft, 5 helicopters and 2,340 service members from the navies of Bulgaria, Belgium, Greece, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, the USA, Turkey, France, the Netherlands, the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 and the Standing Maritime Mine Countermeasure Group 2 of the NATO Response Force, as well as 124 representatives of 20 state organizations, institutions and authorities from 4 ministries, local management bodies, non-governmental and private organizations.

The main goal of the training is enhancement of the interoperability and interaction between the naval forces of the countries participating in the exercise through elaborating their participation in an operation for sea security in response to a crisis, as well certification of a ship of the Bulgarian Navy – the frigate “Verni” in accordance with the NATO Maritime Evaluation Programme – MAREVAL.

The exercise BREEZE 2018 has been planned and is being led by the Commander of the Naval Forces Rear Admiral Mitko Petev. The officer, conducting the exercise and director of the exercise is the Naval Admiral Georgi Penev – deputy commander of the Naval Forces. The commander of the multinational ship operational unit is the Naval Admiral Malen Chubenkov – commander of the fleet of combat and auxiliary ships.

A very interesting and important day is coming. 19th July is announced to be a VIP day of the national naval exercise with international participation BREEZE 2018. From on-board of the Verni frigate, the guests and media representatives will have the chance to follow various episodes from the exercise at sea and on the beach.

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Some Underwater Stones in Military Deals That May Cost Billions

Some Underwater Stones in Military Deals That May Cost Billions

SOFIA (Bulgaria), July 5, 2018, Source: Mediapool, Nikola Lalov, Photo credit: Pan.bg

The government intends within the next several months to solve the three biggest projects for the modernization of the Army – the purchase of new type of fighter jets, armoured vehicles and ships, which represent the most serious investment program in the Army since 1989.

The total value of the future deals will be about BGN 4 billion and they will predetermine the development of the sector for the coming decades. Although the need of new armaments and equipment is indisputable, there are many unclear, non-transparent and controversial issues around the three projects that may compromise the modernization process and threaten the stability not only of the Army, but also of the whole country.

According to sources of Mediapool the Government is working the hardest on preparing the deal for new armoured vehicles that will worth over BGN 1.46 billion. Exactly it, however, is the most non-transparent one. Tax payers have not any information about the activities of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), and even the major technical requirements of the needed machines are not known.

This allows of many speculations related to the Project, which concerns many different interests – business and political ones.

The main issue related to the aircraft Project is that it shall be made a choice between new and second-hand aircraft. The comparison is extremely difficult and in a similar situation Slovakia stopped the Project after having prepared it for years.

The future of the third Project – the purchase of two new patrol boats, is the vaguest, because of the limited budget. According to experts, there are very little chances the deal to fit in the planned budget – BGN 984 million. Although there are no such indications yet as the Project is in its initial phase, it is possible the Navy to lower the requirements for the required by them ships.

In general, however, experts in the sector are wondering if there will be a deal at all.

What is the schedule?

According to the schedule of the Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov, up to 25th July it shall be sent the invitations for offers for the projects for new types of fighters and for armoured vehicles. The deadline for submission of questions and clarification is 15th August. Up to 25th October the offers shall be received, and four days later – opened.

In November the offers shall be evaluated, and at the begging of December tests for the parameters of the machines shall take place. The contracts shall be concluded on 19th and 20th December.

Having in mind the past practice, it is likely that the schedule to suffer delays, but the political leaders of the MoD has already declared several times the ambition to conclude the deals by the end of the year.

The boat Project has been not discussed yet by the Parliament, and that is why it will suffer a delay of a few months.

The armoured vehicles: Lack of transparency and fuzzy political responsibility

At the moment, the Project for the armoured vehicles is in information blackout. Unlike the fighter jet Project, which is detailed, there is quite general information about it.

The Land Forces state that there is technical information about each required machine, but it is not public.

These details are key for the future selection as there are big differences between the offered machines.

Another specific fact is that this Project is entirely given in the hands of the military. Unlike the other two projects, there is no responsible Deputy Minister of Defence appointed for that one. It is not clear as of the moment what this reason for that is.

Underwater stones are also hidden in the set requirement the machines to be assembled in Bulgaria, which may make the order more expensive.

The fighters: almost an impossible choice

In the fighter Project, the main difficulty will be the choice, which shall be made between new and old aircraft.

The main competitors will be the Swedish new Gripen fighters and the second-hand F-16 from Israel or from Portugal and the USA.

The MoD wants also offers for newly-manufactured combat aircrafts F-16 Block 60 (or 70) and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, second-hand F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, new or used Dassault Rafale (France), new or second-hand Eurofighter, but probably Bulgaria will not be able to afford them.

The Ministry of Defence submitted the Project to the Council of Ministers for a second time. Last year, the Parliament returned the old Project for further development, explaining that the offers of Portugal and the USA for a second-hand F-16 were excluded from it due to formal reasons because payment in instalments was not offered.

Already during the parliamentary control experts warned that it is offered in the Project a choice between new and used aircraft, which is very difficult.

Now the case is repeated, and offers are requested for new and old fighters.

Last month, the Slovak Government postponed its decision whether to purchase U.S. F-16 fighters or the Swedish Gripen, and the Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini explained that he wanted to see comparable offers.

Whatever algorithm is used by the Bulgarian Air Force, in all cases there will be pros and cons the choice made and probably the debate will prolong the Project again.

It is also possible that boats at that price may not be found

Last week, the Government also gave the green light to the Project for the purchase of two new patrol vessels for the Navy at BGN 984 million with VAT.

The Project for the new boats was in the finals, but at the end of last year, the only company that had submitted an offer – MTG Dolphin based in Varna, surprisingly gave up at the last minute.

The decision was not officially commented by the company, but it was explained by the MoD that it was due to the reduced cost of the Project. Initially, it was worth BGN 820 million, which had to be paid within the next five years. After legal changes had led to charging of VAT on military projects, the money for the deal was reduced by more than BGN 164 million.

Already last year, however, it was clear that even BGN 820 million would not be sufficient for finding enough candidates, and the Navy warned that the Project would increase its value with each passing day.

Now, the MoD finds itself in approximately the same situation. This time, however, it has also envisaged two new options for acquiring the boats: “purchasing of a new defence product (modified for the needs of the Navy) or licensed production and a combination of developing a new product and modifying an existing one.”

It is not yet clear whether and how these options would affect the Project and technical specifications of the ships, but it is clear that the Navy is trying to provide more options for the future suppliers.

It will be of significant importance the Government to clear up the doubts that the Project is being prepared for a particular company, which doubts existed during its first edition.

Worries and bad practice

At this stage the Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov remains moderate in connection with the future of the projects.

“We have worries. We have worries about all projects. Why shall we deceive ourselves and talk beautiful things? Everything may happen. It is also possible that offers are not submitted at all. Although there is interest in all three projects – the two voted ones and the one which is to be submitted. Interest is shown by companies, and they are not one or two,” said Karakachanov in front of the deputies from the parliamentary military commission.

“You saw what happened last year with the boats. In fact, only one company submitted an offer. Others showed interest, asked questions: can’t we change this, change that, mostly in relation to the prices and VAT. We cannot! It was voted in this way by the Parliament. Finally one company submitted an offer. We have worries, but as it is said, we will try to fulfil the work that depends on us in the best way and we will hope things to happen after that,” added Karakachanov.

Far more dangerous option than non-implemented projects, however, is the deals to be concluded, but not to lead to a qualitative change and the new machines to stay in the hangars, because it has turned out that it is not exactly what we need and is very expensive for maintenance.

In that respect the military have significant experience.

Against the spent hundreds of millions of levs during the past 15 years almost no combat capabilities have been acquired, and some of the signed contracts are emblematic with their poor planning and implementation.

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Greece Welcomed Service Members from the 68th Special Forces Brigade of Bulgaria for Joint Training

Greece Welcomed Service Members from the 68th Special Forces Brigade of Bulgaria for Joint Training

SOFIA, Bulgaria (BulgarianMilitary.com), July 4, 2018, Author: Bm Team, Photo: twitter

Greece welcomed service members from the 68th Special Forces Brigade of Bulgaria for an international joint training from 24th June to 2nd July 2018 announced from the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence yesterday on 3rd July. The training activities took place at the military base Nea Peramos, Greece, learned BulgarianMilitary.com

During the training together with the formation from the structure of the 1st Special Warfare Battalion from the 68th Special Forces Brigade and the Special Operations Forces of Greece, it were held exercises on alpine training, combat shooting, hostage release operations, evacuation of a casualty.

For the purposes of implementing the operations, three helicopters and two F-16 fighters of the Hellenic Air Force were used. The Commander of the Hellenic Armed Forces Joint Special Operations Command Major General Nikolaos Flaris and the Commander of the Bulgarian Special Forces Brigadier General Yavor Mateev expressed a high opinion of the service members for the excellent fulfilment of the tasks and the deserving performance during the international joint training.

The 68th Special Forces Brigade, being the unconventional warfare branch of the Bulgarian Armed Forces, is an independent branch, directly subordinated to the Chief of Defence since 1st February 2017. Before that the brigade belonged to the force structure of the Land Forces. The Brigade is one of the two Bulgarian military special operations units. The other one is the Naval Special Reconnaissance Detachment (NSRD), which is much smaller. The NSRD is a combat frogmen unit, belonging to the structure of the Bulgarian Navy.

BulgarianMilitary.com recalls for you that up to 160 service members from the 68th Special Forces Brigade and Land Forces of the Bulgarian Army will take part in the NATO mission in Afghanistan “Resolute Support” and the official ceremony on the departure of the Bulgarian service members was held on 22nd June in front of the chapel-mausoleum “St. Georgi Pobedonosets” in the town of Pleven.

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