The Bulgarian government expects to complete negotiations with the United States on the purchase of F-16s this summer, Deputy Foreign Minister Georg Georgiev said in an interview with Bulgarian National Radio.
Speaking from Boston while on a working visit to the US, Georgiev said that the deal, which is expected to be completed in June, was a significant step and would bring added value to the country and the millitary.
He described opposition criticism of the move to acquire F-16s as counterproductive.
“We should not play with such very cheap populism, with something that is strategically important for our country, especially in its geopolitical, geostrategic, context in the Balkan peninsula and throughout Central and Eastern Europe,” he said.
On March 11, a representative of Lockheed Martin said that the negotiations between the governments of Bulgaria and the US on the acquisition of F-16 fighter jets could conclude in July 2019 and the order delivered in the year 2023 at the earliest.
Bulgaria’s National Assembly approved on January 16 by 130 votes to 84 giving the government a mandate to negotiate with the United States on acquiring F-16 fighter jets.
At the beginning of November 2018, Bulgaria’s Defence Minister opened the offers from three countries – the US for F-16s, Sweden for Gripens and Italy for second-hand Eurofighters.
In January, a report by a political-military group that assessed the offers to supply the Bulgarian Air Force with a new fighter jet recommended the opening of negotiations with the US to acquire F-16s.
Bulgaria has been a Nato member since 2004, but thus far no government has concluded a fighter jet deal to bring the country up to the standards of the alliance. Bulgaria continues to spend huge sums keeping its ageing Soviet-made fighter jets in the air.