Bulgarian Defence Minister on overhaul deal with Russia: MiG-29s could be used to 2030

Bulgarian Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov has sought to justify a planned contract with Russia for that country to overhaul the engines of the Air Force’s MiG-29s fighters, saying that this could enable Bulgaria to continue to use them until the year 2030.

Karakachanov also defended the deal from a cost point of view, saying that contracting Russia to overhaul the engines was the cheapest option for Bulgaria, and questioning whether his country would have the money to pay for new fighters.

The intention to sign the four-year contract with Russia’s MiG company has been criticised by former defence minister Nikolai Nenchev as a threat to the national security of Bulgaria, a Nato member state.

Bulgaria has been a Nato member since 2004, and is meant to bring its military up the standards of the alliance, through modernisation including the acquisition of new jet fighters.

In recent years, the issue of the overhaul of the Bulgarian Air Force’s MiG-29 engines has been a vexed one, especially when the second Boiko Borissov government, in which Nenchev was defence minister, shifted the business from Russia to Poland. Nenchev currently faces criminal charges over this deal. He denies wrongdoing.

In a television interview on March 16, Karakachanov said that after six MiG-29 engines had been overhauled in Poland, that country had stopped the process. Poland bought spare parts from Russia and Moscow had threatened to cut off supply because Poland was carrying out the overhauls without a licence to do so, according to Karakachanov.

He said that there was “no observer status in Nato”.

“If Bulgaria wants a military, it must maintain its equipment. The MiG-29s can be used until 2029 – 2030, why should we throw them out,” Karakachanov said.

He said that 80 per cent of the equipment in Bulgaria was Soviet-made “but that is true in many countries – for example, Poland, which I do not know to be pro-Russian”.

Karakachanov said that Nenchev, in speaking against the new contract with Russia to overhaul the MiG-29 engines, had not addressed the issue of the use of intermediaries.

“It is know that if you use intermediaries, the price swells. And there are two companies. In the military-industrial complex, the companies are not the Red Cross, they charge money for their work,” he said.

Karakachanov said that there were sanctions against Russia, but these were in connection with the purchase of new equipment. When it came to maintaining existing equipment, such commercial contracts were allowed, he said.

A framework contract was to be signed for the next four years, “to support up to 15 MiG aircraft, that is, all we have”. Money was paid on delivery, he said: “You don’t pay 40 million in advance”.



The Sofia Globe staff

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