The Bulgarian Cabinet has adopted a document proposing allowing aircraft from other Nato countries to participate in Bulgaria’s air defence and allowing them to use weaponry if aircraft from non-Nato countries breach the country’s airspace.
This is contained in proposed amendments to the Defence and Armed Forces Act, to be tabled for public discussion and then in Parliament.
Bulgaria’s jet fighter complement currently is made up of an ageing set of Soviet-made MiG fighters, costly to maintain and which do not meet the standards of Nato, of which the country has been a member since 2004.
To the chagrin of Russia, Bulgaria is making steps towards agreeing with Poland on handing that country a contract to maintain the MiGs, while Bulgaria also is proceeding on its protracted process – already going on without result for several years – of acquiring new fighter jets.
At a scheduled meeting on September 30, Bulgaria’s Cabinet approved a programme for the development of the country’s defence capabilities up to 2020.
The programme commits Bulgaria to increase its defence spending from 1.35 per cent of GDP in 2016 to 1.5 per cent in 2018 and two per cent in 2024. Earlier in 2015, a meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security, convened by head of state and commander-in-chief President Rossen Plevneliev, secured almost universal political agreement on increasing defence spending to meet Nato commitments.
Deputy Defence Minister Dimitar Kyumyurdzhiev said that the programme envisaged, as far as financial resources allowed and in keeping with the programme’s priorities, modernisation of old Soviet and Russian platforms still in use by Bulgaria’s armed forces.
The document envisages the introduction of new multi-purpose fighter aircraft in 2018.
To perform their assigned missions and tasks, Bulgaria’s armed forces will number not less than 37 000 and not more than 40 000 people.
(JAS 39 Gripen fighters. Photo: US Air Force)