‘A mess’: Bulgaria’s caretaker Defence Minister warns of delays in F-16 infrastructure projects

Bulgaria’s caretaker Defence Minister Georgi Panayotov said on July 8 that ways were being sought to fix the “mess” surrounding the choice of companies to build the infrastructure for the F-16 fighter jets the country is to acquire.

No international competition had been held or organised with participants who have experience in building infrastructure for the new F-16 fighters, Panayotov told a news conference.

The choice of companies, mainly at Bulgaria’s Graf Ignatiev Air Force Base, was made on the basis of criteria that were, if not unclear, non-existent, he said.

Panayotov said that he had been unable to find documents to show that the choice of companies was made after reviewing the market, opportunities and capabilities.

Regarding the evaluation of the projects for construction of the infrastructure that will enable Bulgaria to receive the F-16s, Panayotov said that he had been unable to find traces of how the price of the projects was determined.

The Defence Ministry directorate responsible, Defence Infrastructure, had not done anything, including not checking whether objective criteria were met.

He said that “someone for unknown reasons” had decided that the cost of building the runway for the F-16s at Graf Ignatiev would be borne by Nato, not Bulgaria, without actually discussing this with Nato headquarters.

Nato had declined to accept this, saying that the project was Bulgaria’s responsibility.

Now 53 million leva was being sought to pay for the construction of the runway, as this had not been budgeted for in the original project.

The mess could lead to delays of implementing the F-16 infrastructure project of between six and eight months.

“The approach is unprofessional, chaotic and we are taking measures to fix all this so that the project can be completed with a slight delay,” Panayotov said.

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