Bulgaria’s Air Defence Is ‘Critical Area’, Shalamanov tells BBC

Politics » DEFENSE | October 14, 2014, Tuesday // 20:07
Bulgaria: Bulgaria’s Air Defence Is ‘Critical Area’, Shalamanov tells BBC Bulgaria's interim Defence Minister Velizar Shalamanov. Photo BGNES

Bulgaria’s armed forces must soon reduce their dependence of Russian equipment and maintenance or face the risk of ‘catastrophic consequences,’ Velizar Shalamanov has told the BBC.

Bulgaria’s outspoken caretaker Defence Minister has drawn fire from a top Russian official earlier this month for his recent suggestion that Bulgaria must soon pick a new fighter jet to replace its ageing fleet of Soviet-made combat aircraft, choosing among second-hand F-16 or Eurofighter, or new Gripen. 

The BBC highlighted that following October 5 early elections, a new government is to be formed in Bulgaria, which is “leaving Mr Shalamanov unusually free to speak his mind over the state of the armed forces.”

According to Shalamanov, “the critical area is especially air defence.”

With all Bulgarian Air Force radars and the surface-to-air missiles and jet fighters manufactured in the former Soviet Union, the maintenance, especially of the MiG-29 jets, “depends very much on overhaul of the engines and other equipment in Russia."

Shalamanov also told the BBC “mismanagement of the Bulgarian armed forces” over the past 10-15 years has resulted in “reliance on outdated Soviet-era equipment”.

That reliance, according to Shalamanov, has left Bulgaria dependent on neighbouring Greece and Romania for help in air policing its own Black Sea borders in the current NATO standoff with Russia over Moscow’s role in the Ukraine crisis.

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Tags: Velizar Shalamanov, Bulgaria, Air Force, fighter jets, Gripen, Eurofighter, F16
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