Bulgaria Needs New Fighter Jets - Defense Committee Head
The Bulgarian Air Forces urgently need new multirole aircraft and a decision on the maintenance of currently available MiG-29s, the chair of Parliament's Defense Committee has said.
Gen Miho Mihov, also a former Chief of Staff of the Bulgarian Armed Forces, told Focus News Agency Bulgaria should not break all its ties to "the Russian military-industrial complex" just because of being part of NATO.
Thursday's move by Air Force Commander Maj Gen Rumen Radev to step down (and then withdraw his resignation after talks with PM Boyko Borisov) reintroduced to the public the question of urgent measures needed to address what he commander called "lack of perspective".
Among the biggest problems are the insufficient number of fighter jets fit for conducting air policing missions and training, the decreasing number of prepared pilots, the inadequate number of flight hours, and the government's lack of commitment to long-standing plans on the acquisition of new aircraft.
In Mihov's words, however, Bulgaria is able to "stabilize its military aviation and to continue participating in NATO's integrated system."
He said Sofia should "immediately" proceed to the acquisition procedure.
Commenting on a Wednesday announcement that amendments are being prepared that will allow joint air policing missions over Bulgaria carried by national and NATO units together, Mihov admitted that the prospect of Turkey patrolling over Bulgaria's airspace was "unacceptable" for Bulgarians on psychological and historical grounds.
The decision to allow joint NATO air policing missions prompted the outrage of opposition socialist BSP party, which demanded the resignation of Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev.
The ruling coalition has been quick to dispel fears, saying that it is unlikely for neighboring Greece or Turkey to be able to perform such missions over Bulgaria.
Parliament's Defense Committee is also holding an outdoor session on Friday at the Graf Ignatievo military base in Southern Bulgaria to discuss Air Force issues.
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