While the new US F-16 programme is expected to deliver eight F-16 fighter jets by 2027, Bulgaria is looking for a temporary fighter solution to protect their air space currently guarded by Soviet-made MIG-29s operational until 2023 only. Bulgarian airspace will be left unguarded till 2027 if they don’t look for an alternative solution to protect their skies.
After the European Political Community meeting in Prague-(Czech Republic), President Radev stated that negotiations are in progress with Sweden and other European nations to find an alternative solution, as Bulgaria does not want to risk their safety by leaving their skies unguarded.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Defense announced, “A proposal has been made to Sweden, France, Israel and the USA for the presentation of an offer to lease or purchase aircraft to ensure the possibility for the Bulgarian Air Force to carry out its airspace protection tasks. The ministry also organized meetings with representatives from Sweden and France in mid-September and expected to get a fair deal of second-hand fighter jets. The response of Israel and the USA is also awaited.
In Prague, the president didn’t announce the aircraft or how many aeroplanes were involved in the deal. He said, “How many planes we take depends on the technical requirements, funding, and delivery capacities of the individual countries”. According to the sources, Defense Minister Dimitar Stoyanov demands the purchase of 10 Gripens, the Swedish single-engine multirole fighter, which must be manufactured and delivered within two years of the contract’s conclusion.
Sweden’s JAS 39 Gripen was manufactured by Saab AB, a Swedish aerospace and defence company, to replace Saab 35 Draken in the Swedish airforce. The Gripen has fly-by-wire flight controls, a delta wing, and a canard configuration with a comfortable stability design. NATO widely uses this aircraft as it has all capabilities to meet the demands of NATO-aligned countries.