Estimates are that Bulgaria could purchase nine to 10 military fighter jets, President Rossen Plevneliev said on May 6, Bulgaria’s army day.
Little has been said on the topic of Bulgaria’s long-discussed intention to buy fighter jets to restock its air fleet, made up largely of ageing Soviet-era aircraft, since the centre-right government stepped down in March 2013 to be replaced by a caretaker administration pending parliamentary elections.
In late 2012, Boiko Borissov’s government mandated the then-defence minister to negotiate directly, without going to tender, on a multi-million euro deal to acquire new military jets.
Plevneliev, as commander-in-chief and head of state, attended a morning parade in Bulgaria’s capital city of Sofia, which featured just three Soviet-era helicopters and military personnel on foot, with no mechanised vehicles present, as a cost-saving measure.
He said that experts had been discussing various options for Bulgaria’s next fighter jets.
“We expect to enter into the final stage of the preliminary preparation of the procedure in a month and finalise it in up to three months. Then there will be a need of an official decision by the new parliament and the new government,” Plevneliev said.
He said that he wanted all figures involved in the deal to be public and for the issue to be put to Parliament in good time for discussion.
At the same time, Plevneliev cautioned that Bulgaria’s could not expect “unlimited” financing.
“We should make the best decisions within the restricted possibilities. According to the initial estimates, we could buy nine to 10 fighter jets,” he said.
The Bulgarian military needed to be modernised and technologically re-equipped, so as to be appropriate to the fast-changing 21st century, Plevneliev told journalists.
“I hope that next year all of us will be together again to sing the national anthem and have a little bit stronger technological presence,” Plevneliev said. “We should not count only on the old ones,” he said.
Unofficial estimates in 2012 put the spending on fighter jets at a likely 350 million euro.
Repeated reports have said that the choice that Bulgaria will make will be from among used US-made F16s from Portugal, Eurofighters from Italy or new SAAB Gripen multi-role fighters.