Expert teams from Poland and Bulgaria are to hold talks on Polish industry taking over the maintenance of the Bulgarian Air Force’s Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets, President Roumen Radev said on March 22 after meeting his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda, who is on a working visit to Sofia.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said recently that it would be absurd for Bulgaria to send its MiG-29s to Russia or Belarus for maintenance.
Bulgaria has a small number of serviceable MiG-29s, and in past years has paid large sums to Russia to maintain them.
Nato Allies are assisting Bulgaria in guarding its air space, pending the delivery – to be delayed – of the eight US-made F-16s that Bulgaria has paid for.
Some in the current ruling coalition believe it inappropriate to be paying millions to Putin’s Russia, given that country’s war on Ukraine.
In turn, the Bulgarian Socialist Party element in the ruling coalition has opposed Bulgaria granting military assistance in any form to Ukraine as it battles Russia’s invasion.
Radev said that there would be operational readiness of the F-16s only in 2030, and until then, Bulgaria would have just the MiGs.
“If we do not take urgent measures by then, we risk burying our century-old history of military aviation, begging our neighbours for help and compromising the F-16 project itself, because there will be no one to service it,” Radev said.
Bulgaria transferring its MiG maintenance business from Russia to Poland is not without precedent.
Nikolai Nenchev, who was Defence Minister from 2014 to 2017 in the second Borissov government, concluded a contract – ratified by Parliament – with Poland, abandoning the contract with Russia’s RSK MiG.
Nenchev was prosecuted over the move, for allegedly imperilling Bulgaria’s security, and was finally acquitted by the Supreme Court of Cassation in 2021. The move also led to Russia threatening court action and claiming that giving Poland the contract was illegitimate because that country did not have the appropriate licencing.
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