The US State Department has cleared a potential sale of eight F-16C/D Block 70/72 aircraft and related equipment to Bulgaria for approximately $1.673bn.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency has notified Congress of the possible sale.
Under the proposed sale, Bulgaria seeks to procure F-16 C/D Block 70/72 aircraft, F110 General Electric engines, Link-16 multi-functional information distribution system (MIDS) – JTRS (MIDS-JTRS), and improved programme display generators (iPDG).
In addition, the Government of Bulgaria has requested AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, AN/AAQ-33 SNIPER targeting pods, AIM-120C7 advanced medium range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAMs) and AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles.
The sale will also include AN/ALQ-211 internal advanced integrated defensive electronic warfare suites, AN/ALE-47 countermeasure dispensers, 4,140 infrared flare countermeasures with impulse cartridges, as well as PGU-27A/B 20mm munitions.
The US will also provide communications equipment, software delivery, support, spares, personnel training and equipment.
In a statement, the DSCA said: “The proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the US by helping to improve security of a Nato ally and a key democratic partner of the US in ensuring peace and stability in this region.”
The agency stated that the proposed sale will help improve Bulgaria’s capability to defend its airspace and support regional security, and interoperability with the US and Nato.
DSCA further added: “These aircraft will provide Bulgaria with a fleet of modernised multi-role combat aircraft, ensuring that Bulgaria can effectively operate in hazardous areas and enhancing the Bulgarian Air Force’s interoperability with US, as well as Nato forces.”
The sale will reduce the country’s dependence on the US and the UK to participate in joint air policing.
F-16 Vipers will deliver the capability to protect Bulgaria’s own airspace and borders. Bulgaria intends to purchase eight fighter jets to replace its ageing Soviet-designed MiG-29s.
Lockheed is the primary contractor for the programme.
In addition to the US, Sweden and Italy submitted bids for the tender called to supply these fighters.
The F-16C/D aircraft purchase programme will improve Bulgaria’s compliance with Nato standards.