Proposals on modernising Bulgaria’s military will be submitted for approval by the Cabinet and the National Assembly next week, Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov said.
At a meeting at the end of May, Bulgaria’s Consultative Council on National Security agreed that estimates should be drawn up on what funds would be needed for the country’s military modernisation projects.
In a television interview this week, Karakachanov said that he was preparing these calculations.
Karakachanov said that he was seeking to have payments for the new jet fighter project deferred over longer periods in order to have finance available to address the problems of both the navy and the infantry.
Bulgaria needs to acquire new multi-role fighter jets to replace its ageing Soviet-made MiG-29s, which continue to mean high costs for overhaul and maintenance. In 2016, the country received three formal bids, and at the time of the Gerzhikov caretaker cabinet in early 2017, a committee of 19 military experts ranked the offer of new Gripens from Sweden as the best.
The proposal to be submitted by the Defence Ministry will mean reconsideration of the previous decision by a former parliament, approving an investment cost of 2.3 billion leva for the acquisition of eight fighter jets for the Bulgarian Air Force, two patrol vessels for the navy and armoured vehicles for the land forces.
Speaking on June 15, President Roumen Radev – formerly head of the Air Force and constitutionally, commander-in-chief of Bulgaria’s armed forces – said that modernisation of the military was not simply a matter of replacing some weaponry with more modern ones, but was a set of events.
It should involve changing the legal framework, organisational change, and most importantly, care for people, Radev said.
“It is very important to take care of people, to increase their motivation, social prestige, and provide conditions for complete preparation that guarantees the safety and preservation of the health and life of the soldiers and the generation of the necessary combat capabilities,” Radev said.
The President, who by law convenes the Consultative Council on National Security, said that at its May 30 meeting, participants had agreed that the multi-role fighter jet acquisition project and the mult-functional modular patrol vessel project would be developed.
“At the Consultative Council on National Security, we agreed on the idea that these projects should be implemented, especially regarding the ships, with the participation of the Bulgarian defence industry. This means that the maritime industry, concentrated in Varna, will have further development,” Radev said.
The President, noted as a highly-skilled fighter pilot, said that he did not want to make statements ahead of the completion of an official commission of inquiry into the fatal Navy helicopter accident last week, adding: “Regardless of the causes of this accident, it is a fact that our pilots fly many times below the minimum standards established in Nato and we must ensure that these guys can carry out their profession under good safety conditions”.
(Archive photo, of Gripens performing air patrol duties over Iceland in 2015: Nato)