Bulgaria’s Cabinet approved on July 10 a contract worth about $1.25 billion to buy eight F-16 fighter jets from the United States.
The deal involves six one-seater and two two-seater of the fighter aircraft, manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
The contract, which in the local currency amounts to more than two billion leva, is subject to approval by Bulgaria’s National Assembly.
Bulgaria’s Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov said that the country had received a discount of about $60 million on the deal.
“If that about $60 million is approved by the US Congress, the real price that the Republic of Bulgaria will pay will fall by those millions of dollars, resulting in a price less than 1.2 billion, and not a billion and 256,” he said.
Karakachanov denied that the reduced price meant that the combat capabilities of the fighters would be reduced.
The approval by the Cabinet comes about six months after Bulgaria’s National Assembly voted a mandate to the government to conduct negotiations with the US on the F-16s.
Earlier, Deputy Defence Minister Atanas Zaprianov told Bulgarian National Radio that there were no changes in the capabilities of the fighters, denying claims by President Roumen Radev, a former Air Force commander who has called into question the worth of the deal.
In mid-June, Bulgaria’s Finance Ministry issued domestic debt of more than 300 million leva, in a move linked to the F-16 deal.
The acquisition of the US F-16s was recommended by a political-military group, after a saga that has gone on for several years, at an earlier stage of which a Bulgarian caretaker cabinet received a report recommending Sweden’s Gripens. That option was subsequently overturned amid political manoeuvring.
The deal on the contract for the F-16s has four key elements – the delivery of the aircraft, the delivery of the combat equipment for them, and the supply of simulators and logistics equipment.
The prices includes training for pilots and ground crew.
In the parliamentary process, the first stage will be examination of the deal by the National Assembly’s defence committee, after which it will be debated and voted on by the whole House.
In a statement on July 10, Lockheed Martin said that it welcomes the Bulgarian Cabinet’s decision to accept the Letter of Acceptance from the US Government for eight F-16 Block 70 aircraft, “the most advanced version of this benchmark Nato fighter available today”.
“This is another important milestone along the path to procuring the F-16 Block 70, which will be supported by a long-term program of partnership between the US, Bulgaria, Lockheed Martin, and Bulgarian industry and academia,” said John Neilson, Head of International Communications, Europe and Israel, at Lockheed Martin.
(Photo: Lockheed Martin)