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Sweden offers to supply 8 new Gripen C/D fighter jets to Bulgaria

Author Mario Tanev
Sweden offers to supply 8 new Gripen C/D fighter jets to Bulgaria mashleymorgan / Creative Commons

SOFIA (Bulgaria), October 2 (SeeNews) - Sweden has offered to supply 8 new Gripen C/D fighter jets equipped with the newest MS20 configuration to Bulgaria in response to the request for proposals received from the defence ministry in Sofia, the manufacturer the jets - Saab, said on Tuesday.

The first jet can be delivered within 24 months of signing the contract, Saab said in a statement.

The Gripen Material System 20 (MS20) capability enhancement for Gripen C-series involves both hardware and software upgrades, providing improvements and new functionality both in terms of the aircraft itself and the ancillary support and training systems, according to the manufacturer.

On Monday, Bulgaria's defence ministry said that the US, Sweden and Italy have responded to Bulgaria's request for proposals for supply of up to 16 fighter jets. The US has offered to supply new F-16 or F-18 jets, while Italy has offered used Eurofighter aircraft, the ministry said.

A working group appointed by the Bulgarian prime minister is expected to complete assessment of the offers by October 19, although the deadline may be extended. Upon completion of the assessment, a second working group also appointed by the prime minister will hold talks with the bidders on potential improving of the offers.

In July, Bulgaria sent requests for proposals for supply of up to 16 new or used multipurpose fighter aircraft to seven countries - the US, Portugal, France, Germany, Israel, Italy and Sweden.

Bulgaria sought offers for supply of new or used F-16 and F/A-18 Super Hornet jets from the United States, new or used Dassault Rafale from France, Gripen C/D from Sweden, new Eurofighter 3 Tranche jets from Germany, used Eurofighter Tranche 1 fighter jets from Italy and used F-16 from Portugal and Israel.

In June, Bulgaria’s parliament approved a plan for the acquisition of NATO-compatible combat aircraft, to replace the ageing fleet of Russian-made MiG-29 jets of the country's Air Force. According to the plan, the aircraft will be purchased in two stages.

The first stage of the project 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). The first stage also envisages the providing of integrated logistics support for a three-year period, training services and training equipment, as well as ground support equipment.

In 2016, Bulgaria launched a tender for acquisition of a new type of combat aircraft but in September 2017 the ad-hoc parliamentary committee set up to supervise the selection process, recommended to relaunch the procedure, saying one of the participants in the tender had been unfairly disqualified from the race.

NATO said earlier this month it expects Bulgaria's defence spending to rise to 1.56% of the country's GDP in 2018, from an estimated 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)