MILMAG 01/2019 online »

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Bulgarian fighter jet procurement

Bulgarian Ministry of Defence (MoD) is considering acquisition of a number of Saab Gripen multirole fighter jets, as negotiations with US over the procurement of F-16 Block 70 fighters stall over price issues. 

Bulgaria might become another Central and Eastern European country operating F-16 multirole, fighter jets, after Poland, Romania and Slovakia. However, prolonged negotiations and disagreements over price issues, might impede reaching final agreement, forcing Bulgarian authorities to consider other procurement options, such as Saab’s Jas-39 Gripen / Graphic: Lockheed Martin

The chief of the Bulgarian MoD, Krasimir Karakachanov, has acknowledged lately, that his department might be forced to turn its eye on other potential partners in the procurement of a number of new, multirole fighter jets. Until now Sofia was focusing of acquisition of eight U.S. manufactured F-16 Block 70 fighters, however, the final agreement might never be reached due to disagreements between parties over price negotiations. 

As main points of disagreement, Karakachanov outlines the price of fighter jets itself, but also the costs of procuring additional equipment, such as weapon systems and servicing of the platforms. Payment deadlines are also mentioned as issues which require further discussions.

As an alternative to the procurement of F-16s, Karakachanov mentioned Swedish Saab company, which offers Bulgaria its renowned Jas-39 Gripen fighters. The Scandinavian manufacturer seems to be perceived as a more affordable option, which offers similar level of operational and combat efficiency as Americans. 

Furthermore, a number of countries in the Central and Eastern Europe region already operate Swedish Jas-39 Gripens, which means that Bulgarian Air Force and MoD might find this platform as a suitable solution for working out ways for enhancing regional cooperation in air operations among regional NATO partners. On the other hand, the American F-16 platform is also quite commonly used by former Warsaw Pact members, being operated by Polish and Romanian Air Force, and with Slovakia joining them by 2022.



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