New contracts to speed up delivery of F-16 to Bulgaria
After the deal with US is concluded the first jet fighter will come to Bulgaria by end-2022Europost , Sofia
The fact that Morocco and another Asian country bid for the latest generation F-16 Block 70 to renovate their combat air force will speed up the implementation of the plans to start the manufacture of new jet fighters for Bulgaria and the delivery of the first aircraft to be in end-2022, Lockheed Martin reported quoting James Robinson, International Business Development Senior Manager for F-16 at the manufacturing company.
As is known, the contracts for the new generation aircraft, world’s most successful multirole fighter, have already been concluded by Slovakia and Bahrein while Greece wants to upgrade 85 of its Viper aircraft which have the same characteristics but cannot boast F-16’s lifespan of 12,000 hours. At the same time Poland also ponders upgrading of its current aircraft fleet, Romania eyes purchasing more planes while Croatia re-assesses the needs of its national combat air force. Two weeks prior to the opening of the plant in Greenville, South Carolina, where the machines will be assembled, Robinson explained that although the recent contracts will put a strain on the company the new production line is already capable of boosting its capacity to meet the customers’ requirements.
According to James Robinson, misinformation has been spread, often by people who were not immediately involved in the negotiations, about our capability to deliver the new F-16 Block 70 aircraft within the time framework that meets the needs of the Bulgarian Air Force. He also assured that there will be no delay of delivery after the talks between Bulgaria and US are successfully completed and the deal is concluded. Robinson added that the aircraft for Bahrein, Slovakia and Bulgaria will be the first to be manufactured at the new facility in Greenville. “If we admit that the agreement is signed this summer we are planning to start the training of the Bulgarian pilots and ground personnel in the US no later than 2021 and will deliver the first F-16 to Bulgaria before the beginning of 2023,” Robinson said further.
Parallel with that, Lockheed Martin declares preparedness to build a base for maintenance, partial repair and overhaul for jet fighters (MRO facility) in Bulgaria. With this project the company will meet the requirement of the Bulgarian government that the aircraft be serviced in Bulgaria by local engineers and mechanics until their lifespan is exhausted. Other opportunities for partnership with the Bulgaria industry and possible participation of the local academic structures in the R&D programmes have also been discussed, the Company said.