August 28, 2001 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Bulgaria has scrapped plans to replace some of its Russian-made military aircraft with U.S. F-16 jet fighters, a senior army officer said Tuesday.
The government will instead repair and refurbish its 21 Russian MiG-29 jet fighters in an effort to upgrade its force meet NATO
military standards. Bulgaria hopes to receive an invitation to join NATO during the alliance's summit next year.
Only three of the fighters are in working condition due to lack of spare parts, said Gen. Dimitar Georgiev, air defense commander. The country's 235-plane air force also includes older Soviet-made MiG-23, MiG-21 and Su-25 fighters.
The previous government of former prime minister Ivan Kostov considered replacing the MiG-29s with American F-16 fighters so that the fleet would fulifill NATO requirements.
But because the country could only afford used planes ? which could require extensive and costly repairs ? officials decided to forego the purchase.
"There is no point in buying recycled U.S. planes," Georgiev said. "They will require different navigation and auxiliary equipment."