Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov has said that his government hopes to finalise the deals to acquire new fighter jets, armoured vehicles and naval patrol vessels by the end of 2018.
Borissov also hinted at a preference for the fighter jets to be new, rather than second-hand – a preference similar to that recently expressed by Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov.
The deadline for the seven potential bidders to put in their offers to supply fighter jets to the Bulgarian Air Force is October 1. It is not publicly known whether all seven have submitted bids or will do so.
Of the bidders invited, those seen as in the lead are the US, invited to supply F-16s, and Sweden’s Gripen – offering newly-made aircraft. In early 2017, an expert committee ranked the Gripen bid the highest, but the process was reversed amid political manoeuvring.
Speaking to reporters in New York, where he is attending the UN General Assembly September 2018 opening session, Borissov said that he had spoken to Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on the sidelines of the event.
Borissov said that he had told Stoltenberg that Bulgaria was still approaching the Nato target for member countries of defence spending amounting to two per cent of GDP, and the fact that Bulgaria had not got there yet “will not prevent our firm decision to re-arm the Air Force”.
“At last, let us stop with these transport aircraft and helicopters, as if we were a grocery store to carry cargo, but to buy fighters – real, military, new, with which to guarantee our air space,” Borissov said.
Approved by the National Assembly in June 2018, the military modernisation process makes provision for 3.5 billion leva spending, including 1.8 billion leva for the fighter jets, to be acquired in two stages of eight each. The latter is to be paid in instalments up to the year 2027.