Bulgaria 'Renouncing Its Air Force,' RIA Novosti Says
Russian agency RIA Novosti has published a piece claiming that Bulgaria is about to renounce its own Air Force and "give its air[space] to NATO."
Bulgaria is dashing its hopes to develop a national security concept, replacing it with the principle: "Who doesn't fly never falls down," reads the text [RU], which originally appeared on RIA Radio and is titled It Was Only a MiG. But It Also Flew Away. (In Russian, apart from a type of fighter aircraft, "mig" also means "a moment".)
It comes after Sofia announced earlier this week it was preparing legal amendments that would allow joint air-policing missions over Bulgaria's airspace conducted by national and NATO jets. This means Bulgaria will have limited capacity to perform its own air-policing duties while repair works are being carried out, but does not suggest Bulgaria will stop having flight-worthy aircraft in the next few years to come.
Six Bulgarian Air Force MiG-29 fighter jets will have their engines overhauled in Poland, according to an intergovernmental letter of intent signed in Sofia in late August. Bulgaria needs to have at least one fighter squadron of 12 aircraft in order to maintain high level of combat readiness as a NATO member state. Currently, there are four flight-worthy MiG-29s with enough flying capacity in the Bulgarian Air Force. A move to acquire new multi-role fighters has been pending for years, with some officials calling for it to be triggered immediately but with the Prime Minister pointing to budget shortfalls.
RIA Novosti describes the legal amendments as Bulgaria's "second blunder", the first one having been a move to deny overflight in September to Syria-bound Russian aircraft which Moscow says were delivering humanitarian aid.
"A chicken is not a bird, and also Bulgaria is not aspiring upwards," the author, Mikhail Sheinkman, notes, thus paraphrasing a not-so-distant Soviet-era saying: "A chicken is not a bird, Bulgaria is not abroad."
The report also reads that the country's own military aircraft turned out to be "too unfeasible" to maintain. It claims the fact that Bulgaria's aircraft fleet is made up of Soviet-made MiGs is "what the whole issue is about."
With the MiG jets becoming increasingly outdated, Bulgaria is now intending to send them to state-owned facilities in Poland to have them repaired there instead of renewing a contract with their manufacturer, RSK MiG.
Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev assures maintenance carried out by Poland is less expensive compared to the offer by RSK MiG.
RIA Novosti, however, says Sofia cannot demand technical support from Russia "for political reasons" and will have to "give in" its airspace to NATO allies.
The manufacturer meanwhile sent last week a letter to Bulgarian authorities, arguing Poland has no license to repair any MiGs but the ones owned by Warsaw.
"And [it is] not only this, by the way. Bulgaria has in the end accepted one of the six coordination headquarters of the alliance." This is an apparent reference to the six structures due to be set up (and several of them already in place) in Eastern Europe as part of NATO's move to beef up its eastern flank approved after the outset of the Ukraine crisis.
"This means alongside [NATO's] airplanes [NATO] tanks could appear on [Bulgarian] territory as well," RIA states further.
Bulgaria has actually received US equipment already, with heavy arms having arrived in August as part of the Black Sea Rotational Force.
Another reference made here is to a recent report (only mentioned by several media outlets in Bulgaria but never officially disclosed) by the Alliance reading that Bulgaria is a "consumer of security", rather than being "a source of security", with defense expenditures constantly on the ebb and capabilities also going down.
At the beginning, a brief poem reads that Bulgaria, having landed, "sees no point even in its Air Force", ditching its two-and-a-half aircraft and putting all its trust on NATO about airspace protection. ("It wants to give to the bloc its entire sky.")
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