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SOFIA (Bulgaria), January 9 (SeeNews) - Bulgaria's government has asked parliament for a mandate to start negotiations with the United States for acquisition of new F-16 fighter jets, defence minister Krasimir Karakachanov said on Wednesday.
During the negotiation process in the past several months, we received certain assurances that the price will be corrected, Karakachanov said during a briefing following a government meeting, as seen in a video file published by local private broadcaster bTV.
Last month, the Bulgarian ministries of defence and economy proposed to the government to seek a mandate from parliament to start talks with the U.S. for the acquisition of new fighter jets as part of the procurement process launched last year
"The acquisition of new multipurpose fighters like the F-16V Block 70 from the U.S., equipped with the latest generation radar and weaponry, will significantly improve the combat capabilities of the Bulgarian Air Force," Karakachanov said at the time.
In October, Bulgaria said that the U.S., Sweden and Italy have responded to its request for proposals for supply of up to 16 fighter 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 fighter jets, while Italy offered used Eurofighter aircraft. Subsequently, Saab improved its bid and offered to deliver 10 jets instead of the initially proposed eight.
In June, Bulgaria’s parliament approved a plan for the acquisition of NATO-compatible combat aircraft in two stages. The first stage envisages the purchase of no less than eight aircraft for an estimated total of some 1.8 billion levs ($1.1 billion/ 920.3 million euro).
NATO said last year that it expects Bulgaria's defence spending to rise to 1.56% of the country's GDP in 2018, from 1.27% in 2017. Bulgaria's defence spending amounted to 1.26% of GDP in 2016. At the NATO summit in Wales in 2014, Bulgaria committed to a defence spending target of 2% of GDP, to be reached in the following 10 years.
(1 euro = 1.95583 levs)