The Bulgarian Government is reportedly planning to acquire new fighter aircraft for use by its air force, the country’s defence minister Nikolai Nenchev has revealed.
Nenchev was quoted by The Sofia Globe as saying that he intends to visit the US to discuss the proposed acquisition during the first quarter of this year.
Bulgaria has long desired to acquire a new multi-purpose fighter aircraft, but the plan has constantly been delayed in the wake of budgetary constraints.
According to the country’s defence investment strategy, eight new fighter jets are expected to be procured by 2016. They will replace six of the Bulgarian Air Force ‘s Soviet-built MiG-21 supersonic jet fighter aircraft.
Of the eight new jets, four would be available for operations. The remaining units would protect Bulgarian airspace, as part of the NATO ‘s integrated air defence system, as reported earlier by the news agency.
Meanwhile, the country also announced plans to shift its MiG-29 Fulcrum repair and service from Russian company MiG to Poland’s Military Aviation Works No. 2 (WZL-2), due to the rising cost of sustainment.
Nenchev told BNT1: "We must pay three times more than the manufacturer determined, because spare parts are crossed over by a few middlemen.
"WZL-2 has very good capabilities, which guarantee the fulfilment of Bulgarian Air Force procedures and standards."
On its part, WZL-2 confirmed that "talks with the Bulgarian Air force were held from autumn 2013, and both partners gained mutual confidence."
A formal contract is expected to be signed by September, when the existing agreement with Russia will be terminated.
Under the contract, the company will maintain and overhaul six Bulgarian MiG-29s, which will participate in Nato air policing missions.
According to FlightGlobal ‘s MiliCAS database, the Bulgarian Air Force currently operates 15 MiG-29s, including UB-model trainers.
Image: Bulgarian Air Force plans to acquire eight new fighters to replace its Soviet-built MiG-21 supersonic jets. Photo: courtesy of US Embassy photo by Army Maj Dana Hampton.