Bulgaria sees F-16 jet deal with US at $1.2b

Bulgaria expects the United States to make an offer soon to sell it eight new F-16 fighter jets for its army at $1.2 billion, the defense ministry said on Tuesday. The US State Department approved the possible sale of eight F-16 aircraft and related equipment at an estimated cost of $1.67 billion, a Pentagon agency said on Monday. European Union and NATO member Bulgaria is looking to replace its aging Soviet-made MiG-29s and improve compliance with NATO standards.

A deal for Lockheed Martin’s F-16V Block 70 would be the Balkan country’s biggest military procurement since the fall of Communist rule some 30 years ago.

The defense ministry said the US approval outlined the upper threshold of the costs and it expected a draft contract from Washington within two weeks.

“There is a two-week timeline in which the US government will present to Bulgaria a draft Letter of Offer and Acceptance in which the expected price for the eight jets with a package of necessary related equipment will be within $1.2 billion,” the ministry said in a statement.

The expected price comes above the initial estimate for the deal at BGN 1.8 billion ($1.04 billion), but the Bulgarian parliament has given the defense ministry a green light to go over that.

Sofia said talks for the deal will continue after it receives the draft contract.

“Government-to-government contract discussions between Bulgaria and the U.S. are ongoing and we’re confident that the F-16 Block 70 represents the best mix of operational capabilities, lowest life-cycle cost and overall program cost to meet the Bulgarian Air Force fighter requirements in the future”.
“The Foreign Military Sale (FMS) process is a function of U.S. Government policy; however, it is important to note that cost estimates included in these Congressional notifications represent a maximum total price that allows for additional program growth without requiring further approval from the US Congress. It is not reflective of the ultimate contract value and should not be seen as such. This notification represents an important step in the FMS process as it is required before the final offer from the US Government can be delivered to the Government of Bulgaria”, said John Neilson, Head of International Communications, Europe and Israel, at Lockheed Martin.

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