The F-16 fighter jet deal proposed to Bulgaria by the United States has a “hidden cost of a billion,” President Roumen Radev said in a television interview.
Speaking to Bulgarian National Television, Radev – a skilled fighter pilot who commanded the Bulgarian Air Force before being elected head of state – said that the aircraft were being offered without the necessary equipment and armaments. After-sale support was also questionable, according to Radev.
The US would not finance the construction of an operational airport and the necessary costs at the Graf Ignatievo military air base would be entirely at the expense of Bulgaria, Radev said.
As such, the proposal “serves politicians seeking legitimacy in a foreign country,” according to Radev, a frequent critic of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s ruling majority and who was elected on a ticket backed by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party.
According to the offer sent this month by the US, Bulgaria has to pay 2.2 billion leva for eight F-16s, which will require an amendment to the national Budget, Borissov said a week ago.
The final phase of negotiations was due to start at the end of this week, with the arrival in Bulgaria of a US negotiating team.
Bulgaria’s Finance Ministry has already issued a debt of 300 million leva to support the F-16 deal.
Radev said that the F-16 was a very modern aircraft with large combat capabilities. The proposal from the US, however, envisaged a serious reduction in the equipment of the aircraft that Bulgaria would buy from the US, he said.
The aircraft would be equipped with a “symbolic” number of air-to-air missiles, he said.
The Bulgarian government was not prepared in regard to US legislation and was naïve and ignorant about the programme of sales of military equipment abroad, Radev said.
He said that the deal would eventually be on the backs of military pilots and technicians who will have to perform combat tasks with inappropriate equipment and the Bulgarian people who will pay for the new aircraft without getting adequate defence.