Bulgarian President Roumen Radev said on March 24 that he had asked US President Joe Biden to speed up the delayed delivery of F-16 fighter jets or explore the option of supplying “second-hand” fighters on lease.
Radev raised the matter with Biden while both were attending a special Nato summit called to discuss steps in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Under a previous government, Bulgaria paid in full for eight F-16s, but delivery has been delayed for reasons including the Covid-19 pandemic disrupting production.
Radev said that if the option with the US did not work, Bulgaria could seek assistance from its European partners.
He said that he had raised the issue of leasing F-16s or European-made fighter jets with the leaders of the Netherlands, France and Italy.
According to Radev, there was complete agreement between him and Bulgaria’s government on the matter.
Because of the delay in the deliveries of the F-16s, Bulgaria would have an operational squadron only in 2030.
Before then, a solution must be sought to ensure air and missile defence on Bulgarian territory, which was part of Bulgaria’s commitment to Nato.
The search for options for maintenance of the Bulgarian Air Force’s existing Soviet-made MiG-29s was continuing, Radev said.
“Obviously, in the context of the growing escalation, Russia is definitely out of the question.
“Next week, I hope to have an agreed group to explore the capabilities of Polish industry and the Polish air force, but this is a temporary solution, and we need it. a sustainable solution,” Radev said.
At the Nato summit, Alliance leaders agreed on the establishment of four additional multinational battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia, a statement by the Alliance said.
It is expected that about 900 Nato Allied military personnel, including 150 from the UK, will be stationed in Bulgaria. The battlegroup in Bulgaria will be made up mainly of Bulgarian military personnel.
Talks are also being held about Italian military personnel being included, according to Bulgarian National Radio.
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