SOFIA (Bulgaria), September 23 (SeeNews) - Bulgaria's caretaker government decided to propose to parliament to purchase a second batch of eight F-16 Block 70 fighter aircraft from the U.S. for a total of $1.296 billion (1.32 billion euro), the defence ministry said.
The caretaker government also decided to finance 13 priority projects worth a total of 6.6 billion levs ($3.3 billion/3.37 billion euro) to meet some of the requirements for improving Bulgaria's defence capabilities to safeguard national security, the defence ministry said in a press release on Wednesday.
The final decision for the purchase rests with the new parliament that will be formed after the October 2 general election.
In April, the U.S. State Department approved the potential sale to Bulgaria of four F-16 C Block 70 fighter aircraft and four F-16 D Block 70 fighter together with related equipment, including engines, radars, navigation and positioning systems, tactical radio systems and missiles.
Bulgaria received the offer for the second batch of eight F-16s under the previous coalition government led by Kiril Petkov and is reportedly due to decide by November 1 whether to accept it.
"From a technological standpoint, we are significantly behind our allies. The current geopolitical conetxt requires us to think in the direction of modernising the Bulgarian army," caretaker defence minister Dimitar Stoyanov said in the press release. He noted that the new F-16 acquisition project includes both ground-to-air and air-to-air strike capabilities.
"That is, we'll have a full-fledged squadron of 16 aircraft," Stoyanov said, adding that the jets are expected to be delivered in 2027.
NATO member Bulgaria is putting national security to the fore with the war in Ukraine expected to escalate after Russian president Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilisation of reservists on Wednesday. The Bulgarian Air Force which uses Russian-made MiG-29 fighter jets, started upgrading its fleet of combat aircraft to NATO standards in 2019 when it paid in full $1.2 billion for the purchase of eight F-16 Block 70 jets from the U.S.
Earlier this week, the Bulgarian defence ministry began work on the reconstruction of the Graf Ignatievo military airbase in preparation for the delivery of the first tranche of F-16s, now expected in early 2025.
($ = 1.02454 euro)