Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said in a television interview on February 12 that he expected the deliveries of the F-16s the country had ordered to be delayed by at least two years.
Petkov told Nova Televizia: “Maybe the first ones will be in 2025”.
The initial agreement was that Bulgaria would receive the first two F-16 in 2023, a further four in 2024 and two more the same year. When the deal for Bulgaria to acquire the F-16s was concluded, the country paid the US dollar equivalent of about 2.2 billion leva in a one-off transfer, because it was a first-time customer.
Bulgaria’s Defence Ministry previously has said that the delay would be a matter of months rather than years, while this week Defence Minister Stefan Yanev – who has received a letter from Lockheed Martin notifying that there would be a delay – told reporters that it was not clear how long the delay would be.
Petkov said that there was no danger that Bulgaria would lose its sovereignty, a reference to a statement this week by President Roumen Radev that there was such a risk.
In a statement on February 12, the US embassy in Sofia said that the F-16 program was experiencing delays due to supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“These unfortunate delays will affect all countries currently participating in the program,” the embassy said.
The statement said that the United States remains committed to supporting Bulgaria with its military modernization, “and we continue to train together during bilateral and multinational exercises annually, and to invest in other modernization projects outlined in our Ten Year Defense Cooperation Roadmap such as the Bulgarian MoD’s Cyber Defence Center, Maritime surveillance, and communications equipment across the Armed Forces”.
On February 12, bTV reported that at a meeting of Nato defence ministers, Yanev would discuss with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin how long the delivery delay would be. Nato defence ministers are scheduled to meet on February 16 and 17.
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