Bulgaria’s Defence Ministry tangles with Russian MiG corporation over fighter jet engines

Russia’s MiG aircraft corporation said that recent statements by Bulgarian officials that the Air Force’s fighter jet engines could not be overhauled and their lifespan extended because documentation was missing “did not reflect reality” – to which the Defence Ministry in Sofia responding by saying that no Bulgarian official had said that.

The issue around the overhauled and new MiG-29 issued supplied from Russia via a Bulgarian intermediary has been in the headlines daily for several days, first with reports that the engines could not be put into use because documentation was missing, second when fighter pilots at Bulgaria’s Graf Ignatievo refused to take to the air for scheduled training.

The pilots were said to have safety concerns and be suffering low morale, including because of frustration over the latest delay in getting new fighters. While air policing did go ahead, the training flights over two days did not happen. Defence Ministry officials have issued assurances that training next week, including with Polish Air Force pilots, will go ahead as planned.

Russian company MiG said that the jet engines supplied to Bulgaria had been “serviced thoroughly” at the VV Chernyshev Machine Building Enterprise plant. The engines had been delivered to Bulgaria with a full package of documentation and certification of airworthiness.

Bulgaria’s Defence Ministry said that officials had always said that the overhaul, as provided for in a November 2016 contract, had been done at the plant.

But it said that the six overhauled engines had lacked original documentation showing their history. Without this, it was not clear when the engines were made, how long they had been in use, and how long their lifespan might be expected to be. The ministry said that the four new engines had come without key components that the contract had called for.

The Defence Ministry said that it expected the Bulgarian intermediary to remedy the omissions. It reiterated that the decisions that it had taken were made because it wanted to guarantee flight safety.

(Photo: Chavdar Garchev)



Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via amazon.com, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.