Bulgaria’s government has approved the $1.25 billion acquisition of eight Lockheed Martin F-16Vs.
On Jul. 10, 2019 the council of ministers gave the green light for the, with the agreement likely to be put before the country’s parliament next week.
Sofia is to take six single-seat aircraft and a pair of two-seat examples under the Foreign Military Sales agreement, which also includes training and support packages. According to Flight Global, the country hopes to have received all of the F-16s by 2023.
Furthermore Bulgaria will establish an overhaul facility for hydraulic landing-gear components on the F-16. Economy minister Emil Karanikolov said that the U.S. will also help set up local development of unmanned air vehicles.
The new fighters – Bulgaria’s biggest military procurement since the fall of Communism – will be used to replace its ageing fleet of MiG-29s, which were delivered in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
As already reported on May 30 2019, the US State Department approved a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to the Bulgarski Voenno Vzdushni Sili (Bulgarian Air Force) of eight F-16C/D Block 70/72 aircraft (marketed as the F-16V) with support, for an estimated cost of almost USD 1.7 billion.
The deal included the Vipers and the usual complement of high tech weapons and systems, spare parts, and, of course, the training of personnel.
In January in fact, Lockheed Martin tried to sell the eight F-16Vs for USD 1,05 billion (1,8 billion levs), and the Bulgarian government approved this amount. But it was later reported that the USA bid exceeds the budget by USD 174 million (300 million Levs).
The announcement of Bulgaria that they could have switched to Gripen or Typhoon forced Lockheed Martin and the USA to drop their price.
As Bulgaria moves forward in their F-16 Block 70 acquisition process, they can do so assured they are acquiring a proven, state of the art fighter aircraft system that will deliver decades of NATO interoperability in a configuration shared by hundreds of aircraft flown by many NATO air forces.
Lockheed Martin’s new F-16 manufacturing facility in Greenville, South Carolina, will soon begin F-16 Block 70 production for Bahrain, Slovakia, and it is the location slated for deliveries to Bulgaria.
While the F-16 name stays the same, the latest-generation Block 70 is a totally different jet – part of a total solution package that will provide Bulgaria with one of the most advanced and capable fighter aircraft in service with NATO in Europe.
Since the F-16Vs are intended to replace the air force’s MiG-29s, they could be assigned to 3 Iztrebitelna Aviacionna Basa (3.IAB), based at Graf Ignatievo.
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin
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