Sofia has approved the purchase of a second batch of eight new F-16 Viper fighter jets needed to bring its air force in line with NATO standards, Bulgaria’s caretaker government said on Oct. 27, 2022.
ABC News reports that the Cabinet authorized Bulgaria’s defense minister to sign the contracts with American aerospace company Lockheed Martin once the expected approval is granted, the government said although the decision still needs parliamentary approval.
The Bulgarski Voenno Vzdushni Sili (Bulgarian Air Force) wants to buy four F-16C Block 70 aircraft and four F-16D Block 70 aircraft, plus associated munitions and equipment.
It would be the second batch acquired by Bulgaria, which contracted to buy eight multi-role F-16 Block 70 aircraft in July 2019 for $1.3 billion. Plans initially called for the first planes to arrive in Bulgaria in 2023 and the last ones in 2024, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed delivery until 2025.
The Block 70/72 is the newest and most advanced F-16 production configuration, combining numerous capability and structural upgrades.
The F-16 Block 70/72 in fact combines capability upgrades, most notably the advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar with a new avionics architecture, and structural upgrades to extend the structural life of the aircraft by more than 50 percent beyond that of previous production F-16 aircraft. F-16 Block 70/72 software takes advantage of technologies not available when earlier Block F-16s were developed and produced. Operational capabilities are enhanced through an advanced datalink, targeting pod and weapons; precision GPS navigation and the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS).
Bulgaria has ever since sought to update its military’s air fleet since the country joined NATO in 2004, but financial problems forced repeated postponements. The country now has a fleet of aging Russian-made MiG-29s fighter jets.
Amid Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine, Bulgaria is relying on assistance from other NATO countries to fulfill its air policing obligations as an alliance member.
Bulgaria’s Defense Ministry said Spain would deploy eight Eurofighter Typhoon jets and up to 200 military personnel to assist the Bulgarian air force in November.
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin
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