An advisory working group has recommended purchasing new Gripen jet fighters from Sweden for Bulgaria’s air force, 24 chasa daily reported on April 25.
In March, Bulgaria received three proposals for supplying jet fighters. They concerned the delivery of new Gripens from Sweden, used Eurofighters from Italy, or used F-16s from Portugal. The US is expected to provide a logistics package and armament for the F-16s.
Bulgaria’s air force currently operates Soviet-made MiG-29 jet fighters. The ministry of defence plans to buy 16 new fighters in two batches. At the first stage, eight aircraft will be acquired in the period 2018-2020. The cost for the first eight planes and the respective infrastructure was previously estimated to be up to BGN1.5bn (€767mn).
The caretaker government is expected to confirm the working group’s proposal at its last session on April 26, the daily reported. The decision will require approval by the parliament.
24 chasa said that sources revealed that it is possible that the future government will revise the caretaker government’s decision in favour of the offer for the F-16s, which was ranked second by the working group panel. However, this will be very difficult, because the arguments in favour of the Gripens are very solid. So far, only Romania has purchased second hand F-16s, whereas the Czech Republic and Hungary have preferred new Gripens.
If F-16s are chosen, Bulgaria would receive the overhauled and modernised planes in three years time. A Gripen would be delivered after only one year. The Swedish offer also envisages an offset programme.
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