Bulgaria’s Defence Ministry has called a tender to acquire 10 engines for the air force’s Soviet-era Mig-29 jet fighters, specifying that the engines can be new or restored.
The ministry is prepared to spend up to 30 million leva (about 15 million eur) underlining that it will buy only as many engines as the budget allows.
The most economically advantageous offer will be chosen, according to the ministry.
Defence Minister Nikolai Nenchev initially said that his ministry planned to buy six new engines for the ageing Russian-made fighters. But with only Russia producing new engines, it appears the Bulgarian Defence Ministry has decided to widen its options by saying that it could also buy used ones.
The initial acquisition plan had a 50 million leva budget, from which 20 million has now been shaved.
One of the requirements is that the supplier should be able to deliver the engines within a year and ensure service life of at least six years.
A Nato member since 2004, Bulgaria has committed itself to acquiring new jet fighters to meet the alliance’s standards. Through a succession of governments since Nato accession, and in spite of various plans and announcements, little or no progress has been made on the issue.
Recently, however, Bulgaria’s Cabinet approved the presentation of a package to Parliament that would see a request for approval for spending on acquisition of jet fighters, patrol vessels and other military equipment.
Bulgaria contracted with Poland in 2015 for that country to take over from Russia the repair and maintenance of the Bulgarian Air Force’s MiG-29s, to keep the old aircraft flying to carry out border air policing duty pending the acquisition of modern aircraft.
The new fighter acquisition is expected to involve either Gripen, which is offering new modern multi-role fighters against a deferred easy payment plan, or Bulgaria getting second-hand US-made F-16s, or Eurofighters.
Initial plans of the Ministry of Defence were to get 16 jet fighters in two tranches for a total of more than 1.5 billion leva. Ultimately, however, this amount might only cover the acquistion of the first eight fighters, a report by Mediapool noted.
Nenchev has indicated his belief that a jet fighter acquisition contract could be signed by the end of 2016, but there are doubts about this, considering the financial decisions required, the negotiation process and other issues, notably precisely how Bulgaria would fund the project.
(Photo: Krassimir Grozev)