July 1, 2010 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Bulgaria’s Defense Minister Anyu Angelov had a meeting with US Air Force Secretary Michael Donley in Washington, DC during which they discussed the possibility that Bulgaria would buy second-hand F-16s from the United States.
Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Tsonev (backseat) talks with Bulgarian Gen. Rumen Radev, before an incentive flight in USAF F-16D block 30 #86-0053 on June 11th, 2008, at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria. American aircrews and 10 F-16s from the 93rd FS at Homestead ARB are at Graf Ignatievo AB to particpate in a joint drill with 15 Bulgarian MiG-21 and MiG-29 fighters. Minister Tsenov visited the base to see how the joint drill was progressing. General Radev is the Graf Ignatievo AB commander.
About 4 years ago, the Bulgarian government had also inquired about the options to purchase F-16 fighting falcons.
Last month, Bulgaria’s Defense Minister Angelov unofficially announced the start of a Defense Ministry project to procure new multi-purpose fighter jets.
The commanders of the Bulgarian Air Force are supposed to draft a vision by the end of 2010 in which they outline their ideas for the role of their air force as well as the potential for its development based on the governments available resources.
In 2011, the Ministry plans to research the market, and study offers from the respective military producers. The public procurement tender and the contract can be a fact in 2012 at the earliest which means that the first deliveries of new fighter jets in can be expected in 2015.
According to Angelov, the long time period for the realization of the plan to procure new fighter jets for the Bulgarian Air Force should not cause concern since Bulgaria currently has 16 MiG 29 jets which are sufficient to
guard its airspace.
The MiG 29 planes, which were recently modernized can remain in service until 2030. Their MiG 21 jets however will be retired in 2012.
The Bulgarian Defense Ministry is yet to sign a contract for the post-warranty maintenance of the MiG 29, which has been delayed for a while for lack of funds.