Defence Minister says Bulgaria will try to sell some of its MiG-29s

Bulgaria will try to sell some of its Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets when the US-made F-16s the country is acquiring in a $1.2billion deal arrive, Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov was quoted by Bulgarian media as telling the National Assembly portfolio committee on June 4.

Bulgaria has had the Russian-made MiG-29s in service for more than 30 years. In that time, two have crashed, one in September 1994 – killing the pilot – and another in April 2012.

Currently, the country has about 14, and is spending huge sums on overhauling the ageing fighters, still used to patrol its air space pending the arrival of the F-16s.

Karakachanov said with the arrival of the eight F-16s, there would be no need to maintain the full fleet of MiG-29s.

A complete transition to flying only F-16s to protect Bulgaria’s air space would happen only after the arrival of a further eight of the US-made fighters, but it is not known when that would happen.

The idea of selling the MiGs was to recoup some of the expenses, according to Karakachanov.

He told the parliamentary committee that the process of the acquisition of the first eight F-16s was not being delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The first F-16 is scheduled to be delivered at the end of 2022, to be used for training Bulgarian Air Force pilots.  The remainder will arrive in stages in the years 2023 and 2024.

Bulgaria would not be reducing its defence budget and the acquisition of two new naval patrol vessels and 150 armoured vehicles would go ahead, according to Karakachanov. Together these will cost an estimated 2.5 billion leva.

Germany had a number of MiG-29s at the time of its reunification in 1990. One is on public display at an airport and another crashed in 1996. In 2003, Germany sold 22 MiGs to Poland, at a symbolic price of one euro each.

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