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U.S. State Department clears $1.7 billion sale of 8 F-16V Block 70s to Bulgaria

June 4, 2019 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The US State Department approved a possible Foreign Military Sale to Bulgaria of 8 F-16C/D Block 70/72 aircraft with weapons, communications systems and support for an estimated cost of $1.673 billion.

Bulgarian MiG-29's and USAF F-16s deployed to Graf Ignattevo AFB, Bulgaria taxi toward the end of runway for take off as part of Exercise Rodopi Javelin on October 18th, 2007. [USAF photo by SSgt. Michael R. Holzworth]

The Bulgarian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced in December 2018 a plan to procure eight F-16V Block 70 fighter jets aimed at replacing its ageing Soviet-designed MiG-29s.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency now delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on May 30, 2019, a press release said.

This does not mean the deal has gone through. It only allows the negotiations between the Bulgarian Government and the U.S. on the purchase of the aircraft to be more flexible. Bulgarian Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov explained that if they are unsuccessful, talks with Sweden on Gripen fighters, will be held. Earlier reports even stated the Swedish has an edge on price over the F-16.

The Government of Bulgaria has requested to buy
  • 8 F-16 C/D Block 70/72 aircraft;
  • 10 F110 General Electric engines;
  • 10 Link-16 Multi-Functional Information Distribution System (MIDS) - JTRS (MIDS-JTRS);
  • 9 Improved Program Display Generators (iPDG);
  • 9 AN/APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radars;
  • 4 AN/AAQ-33 SNIPER Targeting Pods;
  • 9 Modular Mission Computers (MMC) 7000AH;
  • 9 LN-260 Embedded GPS/INS (EGI);
  • 9 M61 Vulcan 20mm Cannons;
  • 16 AIM-120C7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs);
  • 1 AIM-120C7 Spare Guidance Section;
  • 24 AIM-9X Sidewinder Missiles;
  • 8 AIM-9X Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM);
  • 4 AIM-9X Spare Tactical Guidance Sections;
  • 4 AIM-9X Spare CATM Guidance Sections;
  • 48 LAU-129 Multi-Purpose Launchers;
  • 15 GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II Kits;
  • 15 GBU-54 Laser JDAM Kits;
  • 28 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs (SDB-1);
  • 24 FMU-152 Fuzes;
  • 24 MK-82 Bombs (Tritonal) and
  • 6 MK82 Bombs (Inert).

Also included are:
  • 9 AN/ALQ-211 Internal Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suites;
  • 9 AN/ALE-47 Countermeasure Dispensers;
  • 4,140 Infrared Flare countermeasures, with impulse cartridges;
  • 8,250 each of PGU-27A/B 20mm training and combat munitions;
  • 36 MK-124 Signal/Smoke Illumination devices;
  • 9 APX-126 Advanced Identification Friend or Foe (AIFF) units with Secure Communications and Cryptographic Appliques;
  • 18 AN/ARC-238 UHF/VHF SATURN Radios;
  • 20 Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) II with Night Vision Goggle compatibility;
  • 10 Night Vision Devices;
  • 2 Remote Operated Video Enhanced Receiver (ROVER), Electronic Combat International Security Assistance Program (ECISAP) support.

These aircraft will ensure that Bulgaria can effectively operate in hazardous areas and enhancing the Bulgarian Air Force's interoperability with US as well as NATO forces.

Bulgaria currently relies on the United States and the United Kingdom to participate in joint air policing. By acquiring these F-16s and the associated sustainment and training package, Bulgaria will be able to provide for the defense of its own airspace and borders.

The prime contractor will be Lockheed Corporation, Bethesda, Maryland. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.

Additional images:

Members of the 31st FW and the Bulgarian air force pose for a group photo in front of an American F-16 and a Bulgarian MiG-21 and MiG-29 aircraft following the opening ceremony for Thracian Star 2012 on April 18th, 2012. Thracian Star 2012 is a month-long joint training exercise. [USAF photo by SrA. Katherine Windish]

USAF F-16C block 40 #90-0709 from the 510th FS takes off from Graf Ignattevo AFB, Bulgaria, for a Combat training mission on October 17th, 2007. [USAF photo by SSgt. Michael R. Holzworth]