WARSAW, Poland — Bulgarian lawmakers have voted to approve the purchase of eight F-16C/D Block 70 fighter jets for the country’s air force. The upcoming acquisition is expected to be worth nearly $1.3 billion.
The National Assembly, the country’s unicameral parliament, approved the purchase plan by a majority of 162 votes, with 49 members voting against and 11 abstaining.
According to the plan, the first batch of eight F-16s that Bulgaria has already ordered are to be delivered to the country’s air force in 2025. The second batch of eight fighter jets is expected to be delivered in 2027, said Bulgarian Defense Minister Dimitar Stoyanov. in a report.
The minister said the first F-16 deal of 2019 lacked sufficient weapons, air-to-surface missiles and precision weapons for the aircraft.
“Under the second contract, the plan is to have additional spare engines, additional radar stations, additional containers for targeting and additional weapons delivered,” Stoyanov said.
The minister added that the Bulgarian army would not be able to protect the country’s airspace after 2023, when its obsolete Soviet-designed Mikoyan MiG 29 fighters will be withdrawn from service.
“The first eight F-16 Block 70 fighter jets that will arrive in 2025 are largely insufficient to perform combat air policing missions,” according to Stoyanov.
Bearing this air power deficit in mind, the ministry revealed last month that it had requested offers for the lease of fighter jets from four countries to secure its air combat capabilities until the first eight American F-16s become operational in 2027 or 2028. Bulgaria’s interim government is seeking to evaluate offers from the United States, France, Sweden and Israel. At the time of the announcement, the minister indicated that France and Sweden had submitted their responses.
Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Polish correspondent for Defense News.