Bulgaria’s Ministry of Defence has made public a draft Request for Proposals document that envisages inviting seven countries to supply the Air Force with 16 fighter jets.
This follows National Assembly approval in June 2018 of a 3.5 billion leva military modernisation project, including 1.8 billion leva for the fighter jets, to be acquired in two stages of eight each.
The project is a revision following the twists and turns on the issue in 2017. Early last year, the caretaker government of the time noted an interdepartmental report that recommended acquiring the fighters from Sweden’s SAAB, which had offered made-to-order Gripen fighters. The report ranked the Portuguese bid to supply F-16s second.
After that recommendation sank amid political machinations, new possibilities emerged, including an option mentioned by Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov to acquire F-16s from Israel.
The document posted by the Defence Ministry lists the countries from which Bulgaria may call for bids as including Israel, the United States, Germany, Portugal, France, Italy and Sweden.
In the case of the US, the call would be for F-16s or F-18s. The document also envisages inviting bids from Israel and from Portugal, both involving F-16s.
France would be asked about Rafael fighters – an aircraft that in 2017 President Roumen Radev, a skilled pilot and former Air Force commander, took up into the air, while Germany would be asked about new Eurofighters and Sweden about new or used Gripens, and Italy would again be asked about Eurofighters.