The acquisition of the F-16V Block 70 fighter jets is not just a purchase, but a long-term partnership that enables the Bulgarian Air Force to successfully meet the new challenges in the sector, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said at a meeting with representatives of Lockheed Martin, a government statement said.
The focus of the October 7 talks was the long-term co-operation that will result from the industrial partnership programme, the statement said.
This is part of the fighter acquisition process and is governed by a contract between Bulgaria’s Ministry of Economy and Lockheed Martin.
The contract provides for the aircraft to maintained and repaired in Bulgaria, including by Bulgarian specialists, the statement said.
“Jobs will also be created and unique know-how will be introduced into our country in the Bulgarian security and defence industry,” according to the statement.
At the meeting, between Borissov and Randy Howard, Director of F-16 Business Development, and Lisa Herman of International Business Development for Central Europe at the company, it was noted that the F-16 was the most successful multi-purpose combat aircraft for Bulgaria and fully covers the country’s defence needs, as well as for fulfilling its tasks within Nato.
The fighter is in service in 28 countries around the world, including Bulgaria’s neighbours Greece and Turkey.
The representatives of the US company emphasised to Borissov that in Europe alone there are more than 700 F-16 aircraft, and in the world more than 4000 aircraft have been sold, making it the best-selling military fighter and the most used in real military action.
“Bulgaria is successfully fulfilling its commitment to defence investment agreed at the 2014 Nato Summit in Wales,” Borissov said.
He said that since the beginning of 2018, Bulgaria had been actively implementing the national plan to increase defence spending to 2024.
“With the purchase of 8 F-16V Block 70 aircraft this year, this goal has already been achieved and by the end of 2019 defence spending is expected to exceed three per cent of GDP,” Borissov said.
At the meeting, which was also attended by Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov, it was also discussed that Bulgaria’s industrial partnership with the US company will develop talents in science and engineering in the sector.
Lockheed Martin is also scheduled to provide Bulgaria’s Air Force Academy with state-of-the-art training for pilots and mechanics under programmes designed by the US Air Force.
This would allow Bulgaria to educate a whole new generation of pilots, which is one of the most important results of the country’s partnership with the US company, the government statement said.