Bulgarian Defence Minister Nikolai Nenchev headed for Warsaw on October 21, the day before the scheduled signing with his Polish counterpart of an intergovernmental agreement that provides for Poland to modernise and maintain the Bulgarian Air Force’s Soviet-made MiG-29 jet fighters.
Nenchev was to be welcomed by Poland’s deputy prime minister and minister of national defence, Tomasz Siemoniak, ahead of the signing of the agreement. Bulgaria’s cabinet, at a closed sitting on October 7, mandated Nenchev to sign the agreement.
Bulgaria intends maintaining its remaining serviceable Russian-made MiG-29s as part of its air policing pending the long-delayed acquisition of new multi-role jet fighters that meet the standards of Nato, the military alliance of which Bulgaria became a member in 2004.
Nenchev and Bulgaria’s centre-right coalition government, in office since November 2014, insist that the deal with Poland will be more cost-effective than a previous contract with Russia on the MiG maintenance. The plan for the Bulgarian-Polish deal has irked Moscow and a few pro-Kremlin minority opposition parties in Bulgaria.
Bulgarian government statements on Nenchev’s official visit to Warsaw on October 21 and 22, and on the October 7 cabinet decision, described the agreement as one on the “supply of logistical support” for Bulgaria’s MiG-29 aircraft.
A government statement after the October 7 cabinet decision said that for the purpose of preparing the agreement, the Ministry of Defence had done preliminary market research to examine the potential within the EU and Nato for provision of integrated logistics support for MiG-29 aircraft. The market research established that Poland was the only country into this category to have the capabilities to maintain and overhaul MiG-29 aircraft.
The proposed draft agreement aims to ensure the airworthiness of MiG-29 aircraft, providing for arrangements for repair of six engines, as well as for temporary use of two engines property of Poland for a period of two years.
The agreed repair price amounts to 1 023 000 euro per engine and the transportation costs will be borne by the Polish party. The first two Polish engines will be delivered within 20 days as of the date of entry into force of the agreement.
The document also details the manner of settlement of disputes between the two parties to the agreement, as well as the overhaul quality assurance, responsibility for which will be borne by the Polish state.
After Nenchev has signed the agreement, Bulgaria’s cabinet will submit the agreement for ratification by the National Assembly.
Preparations regarding an agreement on MiG-29-related repairs with Poland started in February 2015 after a visit to Poland by a Bulgarian delegation led by Nenchev, which presented a first opportunity to discuss the possibilities to enhance the military and technical co-operation between the two Nato member states.
In the course of the negotiations with Poland, an agreement between the government of Bulgaria and the government Poland on military co-operation and a letter of intent between the Minister of National Defence of the Republic of Poland and the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Bulgaria on co-operation on armaments were signed on August 28 2015 during an official visit to Bulgaria by Siemoniak.
Over the course of several months, a draft of a government-to-government agreement on the supply of logistic support for MiG-29 aircraft was compiled. In early October, a working group from Bulgaria visited Poland to finalise the text of the provisions of the government-to-government agreement.
(Main photo: Krassimir Grozev)