Bulgaria to Invite Seven Countries to Bid to Supply Fighter Jets
On 25 July, Bulgaria’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) made a draft Request for Proposals document public that envisages inviting seven countries to supply then Bulgarian Air Force with 16 new fighter jets.
This follows National Assembly approval in June 2018 of a BGN3.5 billion military modernisation project, including BGN1.8 billion for the fighter aircraft, to be acquired in two stages of eight each.
The project is a revision following the twists and turns on the issue in 2017. Early last year, the caretaker government of the time noted an interdepartmental report that recommended acquiring the fighters from Saab, which had offered made-to-order GRIPEN combat aircraft. The report ranked the Portuguese bid to supply F-16s second. After that recommendation sank amid political machinations, new possibilities emerged, including an option mentioned by Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov to acquire F-16s from Israel.
The document posted by the MoD lists the countries from which Bulgaria may call for bids as including Israel, the United States, Germany, Portugal, France, Italy and Sweden.
In the case of the US, the call would be for F-16s or F-18s. The document also envisages inviting bids from Israel and from Portugal, both involving F-16s.
France would be asked about RAFALE fighters – an aircraft that in 2017 President Roumen Radev, a skilled pilot and former Bulgarian Air Force commander, took up into the air, while Germany would be asked about new Eurofighter TYPHOONs and Sweden about new or used GRIPENs, and Italy would again be asked about TYPHOONs.