Bulgaria will potentially spend more than $2 billion to purchase 16 F-16’s due to fears of showing good relations with Russia. For example, the same amount could allow it to buy dozens of Sukhoi Su-35 jets.
On September 18th, Lockheed Martin made a presentation of the F-16 Block 72 fighter, known as Viper in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The event was organized by the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, the chairman of which is Dr. Solomon Passy and with the assistance of Mrs. Kalinka Kovacheva, who is a representative of Lockheed Martin for Bulgaria and Macedonia.
The senior manager at the U.S. company James Robins announced that the company is ready to offer to the Bulgarian Government systems, simulators and service till the end of their life cycle. We shall remind that the F-16 Block 72 fighter in question is fourth generation with renovated radar and information systems operating in real time, systems protecting the aircraft against crash on the land, systems following the life cycle of the pilot and saving him/her in case of loss of consciousness, as well as systems with big range of operation and accuracy of the firearms. The aircraft of 5th generation – F-22 and F-35 – are equipped with the same system integrations, which turn the F-16 Block 72 into an aircraft of 4+ generation.
As of the presentation, no aircraft have been manufactured of the latest version, but the US government has supposedly managed to sign numerous contracts for delivery of the F-16 Block 72. BulgarianMilitary.com reported that the government of Bahrain has ordered 16 of the fighter jets.
Based on the deal between the USA and Bahrain the Government of Bahrain will pay US$ 145.5 million per an aircraft. It has not only ordered 16 jets, but also an additional upgrade of the available 20 F-16s of the Royal Air Force of Bahrain.
“Realistically Bulgaria will not be able to produce parts for the Bulgarian fighters, but we are looking for ways for cooperation and will offer them. We do this all over the world,” said Randy Howard, the director of Business Development for the. F-16/F-22 Integrated Fighter Group.
BulgarianMilitary.com learned that the U.S. company has invested significant financial resources in the building of a brand-new factory for the production of the F-16 of new generation in question in South Carolina, the USA.
Bulgaria issued a request for proposal for fighter jets in July 2018. It is currently expecting the following offers for 16 new or used fighter jets.
- From the USA it will expect brand new F-16 Block 60 or Block 70 and F/A–18E/F Super Hornet, as well as bids for the used versions, but with their equivalent modifications;
- From Portugal it will expect a bid for used F-16 MLU OFP М6 (Third Party Transfer)
- From Israel it will expect bids for used F-16 C/D (Third Party Transfer) upgraded to the version OFP М6 (or such with equivalent capabilities)
- From Italy it will expect bids for used Eurofighter Tranche 1
- From Germany it will expect bids for brand new Eurofighter Tranche 3
- From France it will expect bids for brand new and used Dassault Rafale
- From Sweden it will expect bids for Gripen C/D and for used Gripen C/D upgraded to the current configuration in the NATO member states (Hungary and the Czech Republic).
In accordance with the NATO membership of Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Air Force shall be compatible with and adapted to operate with the air forces of the North Atlantic Alliance and for that purpose Bulgaria has prepared Terms of Reference for the purchase of new combat aircrafts. Moreover, the available equipment is from the period of the Soviet Union and Bulgaria has at its disposal MiG-29 fighters, which must have been grounded and decommissioned.
It is noteworthy to mention that on October 4th, Zora, a Bulgarian newspaper, reported that the Russian Ministry of Defense had signed a contract with Sukhoi for 50 new Su-35s for a price of $17 million per jet. According to the outlet, for 1.8 billion BGN ($1 billion) the Bulgarian government could purchase 60 Sukhoi Su-35, instead of 8 F-16s from Lockheed Martin. However the worries that Bulgaria might anger its NATO allies makes it impossible for the country to purchase any Russian military hardware.