Foreign Air Policing Missions 'Would Be Shame on Bulgaria' - MPDefense | April 28, 2015, Tuesday // 13:13| views
Gen Miho Mihov, a Bulgarian MP heading the Defense Committee in Parliament and formerly Chief of Defense of the Bulgarian Armed Forces Photo by BGNES
Bulgarian Parliament's Defense Committee head Miho Mihov has described as "unacceptable" the prospect of Bulgaria paying other NATO members to protect its airspace.
Mihov is referring to a scenario that could follow if part of the country's current aircraft fleet, composed mainly of MiG fighter jets, is retired in September due to lack of maintenance.
The present contract expires on September 9, and Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev is adamant it shouldn't be renewed.
Nenchev argues that giving BGN 80 M to a Russian company to maintain the jets is a redundant step, given that the offer is "unfavourable" and Bulgaria should rather pursue a deal to acquire either new (Swedish-made Gripens) or second-hand (Eurofighters or F-16s) aircraft.
He has also repeatedly warned that after the contract's expiration Bulgaria might be forced to pay other NATO states to perform air-policing missions over Bulgaria's territory, a model already put into practice by Baltic countries.
But Gen Mihov told the Bulgarian National Radio on Tuesday the move would be a "shame" on Bulgaria's 100-year-old aviation.
Gen Mihov, who is also a former Chief of Defense of the Bulgarian Armed Forces, called for a budget overhaul to avoid such a scenario.
In his words, NATO could not be against renewing maintenance contracts prior to the acquisition of new fighters.
The alliance urges Sofia to overhaul its fleet as part of a move to boost the military's capabilities and to achieve interoperability with other member states.
This was also the key point of Monday's Consultative Council for National Security, where the President, Parliament group heads, and military officials called on the government to take steps to that end.
Gen Mihov said the Bulgarian Armed Forces were, in his opinion, "on the brink of collapse", voicing his concern with the state of the Navy and Land Forces as well.
But the government is adamant that no additional funding could be set aside for defense this year.