Bulgaria Defence Ministry to seek consultant on infantry vehicle acquisition project
Bulgaria’s Defence Ministry is to seek an external consultant for the project to acquire 150 armoured and auxiliary infantry vehicles, Defence Chief General Andrei Botsev said.
The project, which is among the main pillars of Bulgaria’s military modernisation, is envisaged to cost about 1.46 billion leva including value-added tax, has like the other modernisation projects been characterised by delays.
Bulgaria’s Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov, speaking at the annual Defence Chief’s conference, described the infantry vehicle acquisition project as “more complicated” than the other two – the acquisition of fighter jets and naval patrol vessels – because of the specific requirement for the participation of Bulgarian companies.
The project envisages that 20 per cent of the money for the construction of the combat vehicles goes to Bulgarian companies.
Karakachanov said that the opportunities and degree of participation of Bulgarian companies in the implementation of the project need to be clarified to prevent the procedure being challenged in court.
At the same time, questions have been raised whether the 20 per cent threshold can be met. Bulgarian media quoted a senior military official as saying that at best, perhaps about five per cent of the production could be done in Bulgaria.
It is possible that depending on the conclusions of the external consultant that will be sought, the draft of the project may have to go back to square one, because the approval of Bulgaria’s Parliament will be required to change the terms.
The project envisages the acquisition of 150 vehicles, including armoured and support vehicles, along with special equipment, communication and information systems, and training, for three Bulgarian army battalion groups. The armoured vehicles should be 8×8 drive, while the specialised and auxiliary vehicles should be 6×6 and 4×4.
Reportedly, the army hopes that a Bulgarian company would produce the required Nato-standard cartridges for the machine guns, because the Western originals would be too expensive for the military’s budget.
The plan was to send out calls for proposals in January 2019, but this has not happened.
The armoured vehicles are essential for the battalion groups, which are a basic Nato requirement from Bulgaria.