Bulgarian Defence Minister pledges to speed up materials tenders to keep Air Force MiGs flying

After reports that a lack of engine lubricants was keeping the Bulgarian Air Force’s Russian-made MiG fighters from flying, Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov has pledged to maximise the procurement process for the oils, as well as for spare parts.

Recent reports said that Bulgaria’s MiGs had been staying on the ground during the Thracian Eagle 2017 exercise while only US fighter aircraft were flying, because delayed procurements meant that there were not enough engine lubricants for the Soviet-made aircraft.

Karakachanov, speaking after a June 11 meeting with command, engineering and technical staff at Graf Ignatievo airbase near Plovdiv, said that the Defence Ministry’s main priority was to ensure flight safety so that pilots can safely perform their tasks.

During the meeting, Karakachanov took note of the state of the aviation equipment and discussed specific measures to ensure the safety of the flights, the ministry said.

Media reports last week said that the number of flying hours of Bulgarian Air Force pilots was far below the standards of the Nato alliance of which Bulgaria is a member. The Nato standard is 180 hours and the bare minimum is 80. But Bulgarian pilots were getting in only 30 hours in the air.

Karakachanov said that the problem of insufficient flights would be solved only providing more aircraft, which would allow young pilots to fly more.

Asked about salaries of military personnel, Karakachanov said that the Defence Ministry had come up with estimates for the budget for 2018 of 300 million leva (about 153 million euro) and this included an increase in salaries.

“This is not just a matter of motivation, it is a matter of attitude, because the work they are doing and the risks that people take on their shoulders must be appreciated by society,” he said.

Karakachanov said that the government would do its best so that the lubricant for the jets was delivered within 30 days.

He said that unless rapid steps were taken in the next month, the quantities of the engine lubricants would run out.

Orders had been placed in April, May and early June, he said. Karakachanov added that that the government would also try to speed up the procurement process for the supply of spare parts.

(Photo of a Bulgarian Air Force MiG-29: US Air Force)




The Sofia Globe staff

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