Draft projects on the acquisition of fighter jets for the Air Force and armoured vehicles for the infantry will be presented to Bulgaria’s Cabinet on May 9 2018, Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov said on April 27.
The projects involve the acquisition of 16 fighter jets and 150 combat vehicles for the land forces.
The decision to put the projects to the Cabinet was taken at a meeting of the Defence Council on April 5. Since then, they have been scrutinised by an inter-ministerial committee.
The proposal is to allocate 1.5 billion leva, excluding value-added tax, for the acquisition of 16 fighter aircraft in two stages of eight each. The proposed financial allocation is also to cover groundhandling equipment, training of personnel, initial integrated logistics support for a period of three years, and armaments, a Bulgarian government statement said.
The military vehicles projects envisages the spending of 1.22 bilion leva, without VAT, for vehicles, systems, additional equipment and training for three battalion groups.
A Nato member since 2004, Bulgaria is meant to upgrade its Air Force through the acquisition of fighter aircraft that meet the standards of the alliance. Through a succession of governments, this has not been achieved.
In early 2017, the caretaker cabinet of the time made a step towards progress in the fighter jet acquisition process, when it was presented with a report that rated the bid by Sweden’s Saab for Gripen fighters as the best. However, amid political manoeuvring, matters went back to square one and the process is being re-started again.
At the previous stage, bids to supply the aircraft were received from Saab, and from Italy, to supply second-hand Eurofighters, and from Portugal, to supply second-hand F-16s. More recently, Karakachanov has hinted at the possibility of getting second-hand F-16s from Israel.
On April 27, visiting the Terem military equipment plant in Turgovishte, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said that his government’s ambition was to implement the project to provide the land forces with new armoured vehicles with the involvement of Bulgarian enterprises, Bulgarian scientists, engineers and mechanics.
Borissov said that this would allow funds from the state budget to stay in Bulgaria, which would help the country’s scientific potential and raise the standard of living.