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Bulgaria may turn to Sweden, Italy for fighter jets if talks with U.S. fail - defence min

Bulgaria may turn to Sweden, Italy for fighter jets if talks with U.S. fail - defence min Photo: Lockheed Martin / All rights reserved.

SOFIA (Bulgaria), May 15 (SeeNews) - Bulgaria's defence minister Krasimir Karakachanov has said the government may ask parliament to start negotiations with Sweden or Italy for the procurement of fighter jets for the country's Air Force if the ongoing talks with the U.S. fall through.

Negotiations with the U.S. for the acquisition of new F-16 Block 70 fighter jets are still underway, as there is no agreement on the price of the purchase, Karakachanov said on Tuesday, speaking on public radio BNR.

"Part of the offers regarding the price are unsatisfactory, that is why we continue the talks. We must take into account the price, the package of services and the payment deadlines," Karakachanov said. "If we don't succeed here, we may ask the parliament to mandate the government to launch negotiations with Sweden or Italy."

At the beginning of 2019, Sweden confirmed that their offer is still valid and the country is ready to start talks over a possible deal if Bulgaria fails to strike to an agreement with the U.S., added Karakachanov.

In January, Bulgaria's parliament mandated the government to prepare a draft contract for the purchase of F-16 Block 70 jets and to hold talks with the U.S. government on a possible deal.

In April, US aerospace and defence company Lockheed Martin said that if Bulgaria and the U.S. reach an agreement, the manufacturer could deliver the first F-16 fighter jets by the end of 2022.

In June 2018, Bulgaria’s parliament approved a plan for the acquisition of NATO-compatible combat aircraft in two stages. The first stage includes the purchase of up to eight aircraft worth an estimated total of some 1.8 billion levs ($1.1 billion/ 920.3 million euro).

In October 2018, Bulgaria said that the U.S., Sweden and Italy have responded to its request for proposals for delivery of up to 16 jets to replace the ageing fleet of Russian-made combat aircraft of the Bulgarian Air Force. The U.S. offered to supply new F-16 or F-18 jets, Saab offered to supply new Gripen C/D fighters, while Italy offered used Eurofighter aircraft.

(1 euro = 1.95583 levs)