Bulgaria's government approves plan to buy up to 19 fighter jets
Bulgaria's government approved on Wednesday a long-delayed project to buy up to 19 fighter jets, which will help to revamp its air force, improve its compliance with NATO standards and reduce its reliance on Russian-made aircraft.
Bulgaria will open a tender for the jets after parliament gives final approval for the deal, estimated to be worth 800 million to 900 million levs ($464 million to $522 million). It has yet to decide whether to seek new or second-hand planes, Defence Minister Nikolay Nenchev said.
"We intend to buy a whole squadron - between 12 and 19 fighter jets," Nenchev told reporters after the government's nod on the plan.
The ministry has said it has been looking into buying either second-hand U.S. F-16s, new jets from Sweden's Gripen, produced by SAAB or the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Bulgaria, a member of both NATO and the European Union, aims to replace its aging Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighters with new aircraft in an effort to decrease its reliance on Russia. It has signed a deal with NATO ally Poland for repairs and hopes to have 12 of the new jets fully operational in several months.
A final decision on the purchase has been expected for years. Several successive cash-strapped governments have failed to set money aside.
The government also approved investment projects, which concern the extension of the lifespan of the MiG-29s and the acquisition of new multi-functional module patrol ship.
($1 = 1.7263 leva) (Reporting by Angel Krasimirov, editing by Larry King)
Source: by finance.yahoo.com, March 30 (Reuters) - March 30, 2016
Photo: Bulgarian Air Force MiG-29 (37) fighter jet in 2012 (Photo by sofiaglobe.com)