Bulgaria Not Renouncing Its Air Force, Fmr Defense Chief Says
The Defense Ministry's proposal to allow other NATO members to conduct air-policing missions jointly with the Bulgarian Air Force is not and act of giving up aviation, the head of Parliament's Defense Committee has said.
Gen Miho Mihov, who was the Bulgarian Armed Forces' Chief of Staff between 1997 and 2002 (his position is currently named "Chief of Defense"), commented on the Wednesday announcement that joint policing will be regulated through amendments to the legislation.
Six Bulgarian Air Force MiG-29 fighter jets will have their engines overhauled in Poland, according to an intergovernmental letter of intent signed in Sofia in late August. The agreement drew fire from the Russian producer of the aircraft RSK MiG who said that Poland has no license or documentation whatsoever to repair MiG-29s.
Bulgaria needs to have at least one fighter squadron of 12 aircraft in order to maintain high level of combat readiness as a NATO member state. Currently, there are four flight-worthy MiG-29s with enough flying capacity in the Bulgarian Air Force, therefore the year 2015 is critical from the point of view of military aviation, according to the Defense Ministry.
In Gen Mihov's words, Bulgarian politicians should not suggest to people that "we are renouncing our own aviation."
"Personally I wouldn't accept this," the website Dnevnik.bg quotes him as saying. "The issue is alarming, but not dramatic."
Mihov reiterates his position that Bulgaria should go on with the acquisition of new multirole fighters to replace the MiGs, a process which it has been unable to trigger for years despite NATO demands, citing budget shortcomings.
"For me it is also unacceptable. Bulgarians should understand that our aviation is able and has to provide the defense of our airspace. 16-18 fighter jets might solve this issue."
Offers so far have included new, Swedish-made Gripens, used Eurofighters and old F-16s. Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, however, is adamant no decision could be taken by the end of the year as no funding has been set aside for the purchase in the 2015 central budget.
Mihov's remarks also come against the backdrop of reports by Russian-language media outlets that the country is giving up its Air Force by allowing the joint air-policing missions.
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