Bulgaria Earmarks 2016 Budget Money for New Fighter Jets in - FinMin
Bulgaria's Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said on Friday funding for the update of military capabilities has been set aside in the budget draft for next year.
This includes installments on the prospective acquisition of new multirole aircraft for the Bulgarian Air Force, but also frigates for the navy.
Goranov's comments follow an extraordinary cabinet session held on Friday. The government had until the end of the week to pass the budget draft for 2016 and submit it to Parliament.
The minister, however, has warned the money put aside in the 2016 fiscal plan are most likely to be part of a multi-year program that will result in the acquisition of half a squadron of fighters, instead of a full squadron as proposed earlier.
Bulgaria has not yet picked between offers submitted to the Ministry of Defense about the fighters acquisition. Sofia could choose between newly-built Gripens, used Eurofighters or second-hand F-16s.
The move to include the aircraft issue in the budget is a sharp turn from the previous position of the government, which had repeatedly stated the current fiscal framework didn't allow for massive defense spending over the next year, despite NATO commitments to boost in by a percent in the course of a decade.
Defense expenditure has been at the center of several issues related to the future of Bulgaria's aircraft fleet.
Minister Nikolay Nenchev signed last week an agreement with Poland to overhaul six MiG-29 engines of aircraft that are in service with the Bulgarian Air Force, citing geopolitical but also budget restrictions for a decision not to renew the maintenance contract with Russian company RSK MiG.
Separately, Air Force Commander Brig Gen Rumen Radev stepped down to voice his dissent with the current technical conditions of the Bulgarian Air Force and also with a draft bill that would allow joint air policing missions with NATO countries over Bulgaria's airspace. He withdrew his resignation after PM Boyko Borisov assured him additional defense funding will be included in next year's budget.
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