Joint Air Policing to Make Bulgaria ‘More Reliable’ NATO Ally, Def Min Says
The changes to Defence and Armed Forces Act approved on Friday make Bulgaria “a more reliable NATO ally”, Defence Minister Nikolay Nenchev has said, referring to the Parliament’s approval of participation of allied aircraft in joint air policing missions.
“I believe that this is a step forward, despite the hard debate and the difficult realisation of the whole process” Nenchev said at an informal meeting of EU defence ministers in Amsterdam, according to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry in Sofia.
The Bulgarian parliament on Friday approved on second and final reading legislative amendments that allow the participation of allied forces and aircraft in guarding the country's airspace. The amendments were passed in a 96-34 vote with 13 abstentions in the 240-seat National Assembly.
The conducting of joint air policing missions over the Bulgarian territory will be regulated by an international treaty and, in case of need of urgent action, by a Bulgarian government decision proposed by the defence minister, according to the statement.
“As Minister of Defence I give a guarantee that Bulgarian pilots will have increased opportunities to perfect their skills,” Nenchev said. ”The joint policing of our airspace with our allies will be a new form of providing a proof of professional skills.”
In recent years, the Bulgarian Air Force has been directing its efforts and available funds towards maintaining its struggling fleet of Russian-made MiG-29 fighter jets.
Nenchev said last month that the Bulgarian Air Force could have its ageing Russian-made combat aircraft replaced by new Western multi-role warplanes in the next three to three-and-a half years. The government commission tasked with studying the available options is expected to submit a report by the end of March.
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