The Bulgarian National Assembly’s defence committee approved on January 15 the government proceeding with negotiations with the United States on acquiring F-16 fighter jets, Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov said.
Parliament’s committee on the budget and finance, meeting the same day on the matter, also voted its approval.
The committee votes were being held a day before it is expected that Parliament will vote on the mandate for the government to hold talks with the US on getting the F-16s, though it is also possible that the vote will be on January 17 or 18. Both committee meetings were held behind closed doors because of some of the documents contain classified information.
The move has the backing of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party and minority party the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.
It is opposed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, at least part of the minority partner in government the United Patriots, and Parliament’s smallest party, Volya.
Bulgaria’s Parliament initially mandated a framework of 1.8 million leva for the fighter jet acquisition. Karakachanov told reporters that the US bid exceeding this by 300 million leva.
Bulgaria’s government has said that it has had undertakings from the US that it will lower the price.
Karakachanov said that he expected that the negotiations with the US would take about three to four months.
In December, the US offer was recommended by a political-military committee that examined the bids, choosing this over Sweden’s offer of newly made-to-order Gripens and Italy’s offer of second-hand Eurofighters.
(Photo: Lockheed Martin)