Government approves contracts for purchase of 8 F-16 fighter jets

Bulgaria's Council of Ministers has mandated the Minister of Defence to sign four contracts for the purchase of eight multi-role F-16 Block 70 fighter aircraft, Deputy Defence Minister Atanas Zapryanov, who heads the interdepartmental working group, said on Wednesday. The package price for the aircraft, ammunition, equipment and pilot training is $1.25bn. The US Congress can cover $60m of this price, Zapryanov added.

The amount translates approximately to BGN 2.1bn. In mid-January, Bulgaria's Parliament mandated the Government to negotiate with the US on the acquisition of eight F-16 fighter jets. The budget for the purchase was initially capped at BGN 1.5bn before VAT, but the legislature subsequently lifted that restriction. On June 4, the US Congress approved Bulgaria's acquisition of a complete package of eight fully equipped jets, all additional aircraft systems as well as future upgrades and newly introduced weapon systems worth a total of $1.673bn (BGN 2.925bn).

The first contract is for the supply of eight jets (six single-seaters and two two-seaters) with additional aircraft support systems and pilot training. The second contract is for the ammunition. The third contract is for air-to-air missiles. The fourth contract is for the aircraft tracking and control system. All planes will be delivered by 2023, Zapryanov said, without specifying the arrival dates.

The full report of the working group will be published on the Defence Ministry website, Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov said. “The actual price that Bulgaria will pay will be lower, it will be under $1.2bn if the US Congress covers $60m of it,” Karakachanov said.

Once signed, the contracts will be re-approved by the Council of Ministers and will be laid before Parliament for ratification, most probably next week, Karakachanov and Zapryanov said.

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