Bulgaria to Launch New Fighter Jet Acquisition Process by End-June
Bulgaria will kickstart an acquisition process for a new multipurpose combat aircraft by the end of next month, Defence Minister Nikolay Nenchev has said.
The Defence Ministry will submit the respective proposal to the government by 30 June, BGNES news outlet quoted Nenchev as saying on Thursday following a meeting of the parliament's defence committee.
He also said that a consensus has been reached on the need for repairing ‘several’ of the ageing Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets of the Bulgarian Air Force which will serve air policing missions until replacements are acquired.
NATO-member Bulgaria will be able to conduct air policing missions over its territory using its existing inventory of Soviet-made jets by the middle of next year, Nenchev added.
The only way to keep the MiG-29s airborne by mid-2016 is to extend the life of their engines using the expertise of the Bulgarian Air Force pilots and technical maintenance crews without seeking financing from the Defence Ministry for an overhaul of the engines by their producer, Air Force Commander Major General Rumen Radev said, according to BGNES.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the immediate launch of the process for the acquisition of a new type of fighter jet is the only way to address concerns about the Air Force’s capability to carry out policing mission in Bulgaria’s air space, Radev added. He didn’t elaborate how many MiG-29s are airworthy at the moment but said they are not enough.
Radev also said that the Air Force's older Soviet-made MiG-21 interceptors will not be used in air policing missions.
The defense investment strategy blueprint drafted by the previous government states that Bulgaria aims to acquire new fighter jets to replace its Soviet-built aircraft. When Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004, it vowed to replace six of MiG-21s and acquire eight new fighter jets by 2016.
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