Final talks on Bulgaria’s F-16 fighter jets acquisition next week – minister

A US delegation will visit Bulgaria next week for final talks on Bulgaria’s proposed acquisition of eight F-16 fighter jets, Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov told Parliament on June 21.

Speaking during the weekly ministerial question time session, Karakachanov did not comment on the price of the deal. “The task teams did their jobs, but it is another question what the outcome of the talks will be, because they are ongoing,” he said.

A day earlier, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, talking to Bulgarian reporters in Brussels, where he was attending an EU summit, said that US asking price was 2.2 billion leva (about 1.12 billion euro).

On the morning of June 21, Borissov was more vague, saying “I do not know the exact figure, but the talks are for between two and 2.2 [billion leva].”

“The Defence Ministry received the US offer, they are discussing it. Since we do not have those funds [allocated] in the Budget, if we get to the contract signing, we will go to Parliament for a Budget revision and use the money we have in the reserve,” Borissov said.

Bulgaria’s Parliament has approved the fighter jets acquisition for up to 1.8 billion leva and a deal in excess of that sum would require fresh consent.

Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said recently that the country had the money to pay for the F-16 deal one-off, rather than in instalments. Earlier this week, the ministry borrowed 300 million leva, placing 10.5-year and 20-year-denominated government securities on the domestic market.

Bulgaria, a Nato member since 2004, has seen a succession of governments fail to complete a deal to acquire new multi-role fighter jets. At an earlier stage of the process, in 2017, an expert interdisciplinary committee ranked Sweden’s offer of Gripens as the optimum. This was overturned amid political manoeuvring.

Bulgarian President Roumen Radev, a skilled fighter pilot who commanded the Air Force before being elected head of state, said earlier this week that he hoped that the combat capabilities of the fighter jets would not be cut back in a bid to bring down the agreed price.

(An F-16 Fighting Falcon releases a flare over Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, on March 4 2016. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian J. Valencia/Released)



The Sofia Globe staff

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