Development on Bulgaria's Fighter Jets Issue 'Expected Soon'

Defense | March 13, 2015, Friday // 11:33|  views

Bulgaria's Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev. Photo by BGNES

Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev has said he is strongly determined to ensure that a final solution about the overhaul of Bulgaira's aircraft fleet could come as early as 2015.

The acquisition of either new or second-hand NATO-compatible aircraft is "something we cannot afford to delay anymore," he argued in an interview with Standart daily newspaper published Friday.

Asked whether a solution to Bulgaria's long-standing intention to upgrade Air Force capabilities in line with NATO requirements, he reiterated comments he made last Friday in Parliament.

Nenchev then said that maintenance of the current fleet, composed of outdated MiGs, would take about BGN 1.6 B by 2029 and would turn out to be "quite expensive".

"A visit to the US is ahead for me, most likely in May, we are working very actively there at the level of the administration, at the level of... diplomats. A few days ago I received quite an encouraging information to this direction. So the question could be solved as early as this year," the minister argued.

He also stressed that, aside from using national budget funds, receiving jets as a "gift" was the other options.

"There are a lot of possibilities. We can also pay a sum that does not put us in a difficult position at this stage. The other part [we can] pay in the time to come. For 20 or 30 years. The other option is that they could be second hand."

There are currently three shortlisted options for the Bulgarian government to acquire fighters, which include offers for second-hand Eurofighters, new Swedish-made Gripens or old F-16s. In the past days there have been reports of a fourth offer made on behalf of Pakistan.

Before the issue was broached, the 2015 military budget is also a subject. Asked if the Defense Ministry could do without an overhaul of its expenditure in 2015, Nenchev said: "I think not."

Speaking of the Novo selo range, he added that after conversations with US partners, including US Ambassador to Bulgaria Marcie Ries, USD 15 M in investment had been secured for the facility.

His comments come in the eve of new international exercises at Novo selo later this month.

Commenting on his own decision to dismiss the head of Bulgaria's military intelligence, he cited "irreconcilable differences" between him and the now ex chair Veselin Ivanov over how the agency works. He confirmed that the name of former Interior Minister Yordan Bakalov was one of those discussed to take over the position.

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Tags: Nikolay Nenchev, fighter jets, aircraft, Gripen, Eurofighter, F-16, budget, Novo Selo, MiGs


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