Bulgaria Explains to Sweden Fighter Jet Deal Delay
Bulgaria will not be purchasing fighter jets for the time being, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov declared at a news conference with his Swedish counterpart Fredrick Reinfeldt regarding an arms supply deal that is followed closely by Saab's Gripen.
Saab's Gripen has been one of the major bidders for Bulgaria's long-anticipated purchase of new fighter jets, which was supposed to be started in 2012 and completed by 2015.
“Тhis question was raised during the official meeting. I informed my Swedish colleague that in the 2012 budget we have allocated 82 MLN BGN (41 MLN EUR) for contracts already signed by the previous government. Hopefully, we will be done with all these deals from the previous government in 2012,” Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov explained regarding the much anticipated fight jet purchase by the Bulgarian government.
“We have sent RFIs on the fighters topic to all big jet fighter producers, because according to the needs we have and as NATO members, we need to make such an investment. But it will in no way happen in 2012. Probably in 2013 if the budget allows it. We have given ourselves a one-year period so that the fighters producers give us possibilities for deferred payments in addition to the information on prices, tactical characteristics so that the 2013 budget is not heavily burdened,“ Borisov added.
Sweden's PM in turn confirmed the interest in the Swedish industry in the potential Bulgarian arms supply deal.
“The Swedish industry is definitely interested. We have given information linked to eight aircraft fighters. Of course we think that is a low-cost opportunity for a well-proven fighter, but we also of course understand that there is a domestic process for which we have the deepest respect ad it is up to the Bulgarian government to look into the different opportunities linked to this process,“ Reinfeldt stated.
Bulgaria's Defense Ministry already announced in end-October 2011 that it will not be starting the tender for the long-anticipated purchase of fighter jets for the Bulgarian Air Force in 2012, as it planned.
The delay is caused by the fact that instead of receiving a budget equaling 1.5% of the GDP in 2012, the Defense Ministry's total funding will amount to only 1.2% of the GDP, under the draft 2012 State Budget Act approved by the Borisov Cabinet and the Parliament, Defense Minister Angelov explained.
Even though the Defense Ministry will get the biggest state subsidy of all government ministries according to the draft legislation – a total of BGN 950 M – and its total budget will be BGN 980 M when adding its own revenues – it will actually be smaller by BGN 10 M than it was in 2011, and will amount to only 1.2% of the GDP.
Gen. Angelov said the greater problem is not the specific reduction but the failure to reach the overall goal of spending 1.5% of the GDP on defense set in the Bulgarian White Paper on Defense.
Reaching the target of 1.5% of the GDP would have meant an additional BGN 200 M to set aside for the military budget, he explained.
"The 2012 State Budget Act will necessitate changes in the Development Plan for the Armed Forces, and our Investment Program because we have been allocated a budget amounting to only 1.2% of the GDP," the Defense Minister declared.
He explained further that his institution will keep up the work on the tender for the purchase of new multipurpose fighter jets for the Bulgarian Air Force regardless of the smaller budget; however, the tender will be pushed back, and will not be started in 2012 because of the shortage of funding.
Back in September 2011, in a "butter before guns" statement, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said the country is in no hurry to pick a brand of strategic fighter jets and to make a purchase,.
"We will buy new fighter jets only when it becomes absolutely necessary as [required by] our membership in NATO, because the planes are very expensive. One fighter jet could cost more than EUR 100 M," the Prime Minister stated at an event dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Bulgarian aviation.
His words can be taken to mean that the Bulgarian Defense Ministry will take its time with one of its main goals – the much-talked about purchase of new fighter jets for the Bulgarian Air Force.
According to the investment plan of the Bulgarian Defense Ministry made public in April 2011, it will pour BGN 2 B in armament purchases and military modernization projects by 2020.
Apparently, the investment plan will have to be modified as a result of the lower defense budget, as Defense Minister Anyu Angelov.
About half of this sum is expected to go for the purchase of new multi-purpose fighter jets for the Bulgarian Air Force. The long-anticipated armament deal has been stressed as the main priority for the Defense Ministry because at present Bulgaria still has only Soviet-made planes with even the most modern ones – MiG 29 – approaching rapidly their expiration date.
Various reports and Defense Minister Anyu Angelov himself have indicated that Bulgaria will most likely choose from among fighter jets of Swedish company Saab called Gripen, US-made F-16, and Eurofighter Typhoon. Bulgaria will probably buy 8 new fighter jets, with 2015 being the indicative delivery date.
Referring to the almost completed purchase of Cougar and Panther helicopters from Eurocopter, a highly troubled deal, and the purchase of Spartan C-27J transport planes from Alenia Aeronautica, the PM said the Bulgarian Air Force had gone ahead with modernization.
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