The first of the eight F-16 Block 70 fighter jets to be acquired by the Bulgarian Air Force will be ready in December 2022 and will be used in training the country’s fighter pilots.
This emerged at an August 6 news conference in Sofia by Lockheed Martin International Business Development Senior Manager James Robinson and US embassy charge d’affairs Justin Friedman.
Robinson said that it was expedt that maintenance of the F-16s would be done in partnership between the Bulgarian Air Force and the Avionams aircraft repair plant.
He said that the F-16s being acquired by the Bulgarian Air Force will have “full operational capability”. They would have sufficient weaponry and are Nato compatible.
Critics of the acquisition have alleged that to reduce costs, the F-16s will not have full capacity.
“What are you getting is the most advanced fourth generation fighter jet in the world,” Robinson said.
Legislation and ratification of contracts linked to the $1.256 billion acquisition of the F-16s was approved by Bulgaria’s National Assembly on July 19. A veto by President Roumen Radev of the four contracts between Bulgaria and the US was overturned by Parliament.
The news conference was told that should Bulgaria acquire a further eight F-16s, these would be cheaper because pilots would be trained and Bulgaria would already have much of the necessary equipment.
Initial costs of the acquisition necessarily included items such as support equipment, spare parts, weapons and training, and these additional costs would not be required in a second acquisition, he said.
Friedman welcomed the Bulgarian government’s decision to purchase eight F-16 multifunctional fighter aircraft, munitions, and related equipment.
He said that the purchase of the F-16s will strengthen Bulgaria as a Nato ally, will enhance the two countries; long-term partnership, would reduce dependence on Russian military equipment, and it is a significant step towards modernising Bulgaria’s military and clear sign of Bulgaria’s commitment to regional security and contribution to the Nato alliance.