Defense Minister: Bulgaria to Have New Fighter Jets in 2015
The large-scale contract for the purchase of new fighter jets for the Bulgarian Air Force will be concluded in 2012 at the earliest, Defense Minister Anyu Angelov announced.
Speaking before the military parade in Sofia dedicated to Army Valor Day (May 6, also St. George’s Day), Angelov reminded that the Bulgarian Air Force was the most serious challenge for the country’s Defense Ministry.
He admitted that the project for equipping the Bulgarian Air Force with new fighter jets – which has dragged on for about 10 years – had been delayed because of lack of funds since it will be Bulgaria’s most expensive defense procurement deal in the foreseeable future.
Angelov explained the commanders of the Bulgarian Air Force are supposed to draft a vision for the development of the country's military aviation by the end of 2010 in order to outline their ideas for its role as well as the potential for its development based on the resources available at the government’s disposal.
“After that, in 2011, we will research the market, we will study offers from the respective military producers to see what fits best our needs. The public procurement tender and the contract can be a fact in 2012 at the earliest. This means that we can expect the first deliveries of new fighter jets in 2015,” stated the Defense Minister as cited by bTV.
In his words, the long time period for the realization of the plan to procure new fighter jets for the Bulgarian Air Force should not cause concern since Bulgaria currently has 16 MiG 29 jets which are sufficient to guard its airspace.
The MiG 29 planes, which were modernized recently, can be used until 2030, Angelov pointed out. He reminded, however, that the MiG 21 jets of the Bulgarian Air Force will be retired in 2012.
The Bulgarian Defense Ministry is yet to sign a contract for the post-warranty maintenance of the MiG 29, which has also been delayed for a while for lack of funds.
Publications in UK media in 2006 mentioned Boeing, Dassault Aviation of France, Gripen, Eurofighter, and Lockheed Martin as the major players trying to get the Bulgarian fighter jet procurement contract which was valued at USD 1 B at the time. Angelov has not mentioned any updated sum of a future contract.
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