Netherlands offers to train Bulgarian Air Force pilots on F-16s

Bulgaria’s caretaker Defence Minister Dimitar Stoyanov said on November 15 that the Netherlands had offered to train Bulgarian Air Force pilots to fly US-made F-16 fighter jets.

Bulgaria expects to take delivery in 2025 of the first of the F-16s it is buying from the United States.

Stoyanov, who was attending a meeting of European Union defence and foreign ministers in Brussels, told reporters that in June 2022, Bulgaria had asked the Netherlands whether that country could provide F-16 A and B fighter jets to it.

The answer had been that there was no such possibility, Stoyanov said.

This contradicted a claim made last week by Democratic Bulgaria MP Ivailo Mirchev, based on a report in Dutch media, that the Netherlands was prepared to supply Bulgaria with F-16s if Bulgaria handed over its ageing Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.

Stoyanov said that he had spoken to his Dutch counterpart: “What they are expressing at the moment, as a readiness, is to help with the training of our pilots for the F-16”.

He was skeptical that the Bulgarian Air Force’s MiG-29s could be maintained in operational readiness beyond the year 2023.

Bulgaria could train Ukrainian military medics, Stoyanov said.

He cited the decision by Parliament to provide military assistance to Ukraine and the decision last week by the caretaker government for Bulgaria to take part in the European Union’s Military Assistance Mission for Ukraine.

On November 15, the Council of the EU approved the start of the EU Military Assistance Mission for Ukraine, a two-year programme for training to be provided in EU countries for up to 15 000 Ukrainian military personnel.

“Bulgaria will participate both with a composition and with the provision of equipment for training the Ukrainian armed forces. What exactly the equipment will be at the moment is I cannot comment, for the simple reason that clarification is pending,” Stoyanov said.

“We are not yet finished with the analysis, which I hope by the end of the week, will be completed, and then we should also have a decision to provide information to the National Assembly on making an informed decision to provide equipment, both to the training mission and to Ukraine,” he said.

He said that he was proposing that 60 Ukrainian military medical orderlies be trained in Bulgaria.

“I think that we have good capabilities here in the Military Medical Academy and we will use these capabilities,” Stoyanov said.

(Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon: US Air Force photo/Senior Airman Thomas Trower)

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