Bulgaria to buy 10 Gripen fighter jets – EURACTIV.com

The caretaker government in Bulgaria intends to strike a deal with Sweden for 10 Gripen fighter jets, the Bulgarian newspaper revealed 24chasa.

The media published Defense Minister Dimitar Stoyanov’s letter to his Swedish counterpart Peter Hultqvist. The letter is dated September 30 – a few days after a Swedish delegation visited Sofia.

“During the talks we were kindly proposed to purchase 10 Jas 39 Gripen C/D fighters to be produced and delivered within two years of signing the contract. We would be very pleased to receive your offer for 10 Jas 39 Gripen C/D fighters in due course according to the parameters discussed,” the letter reads.

The defense minister is also asking for a better lease offer for Bulgaria.

The letter for the purchase of the Swedish fighter jets was sent days after Stoyanov announced that Bulgaria was considering offers from Sweden and France to lease Gripen or Mirage aircraft. They should fill the period when the old Russian MiG-29s cannot fly – from the end of this year until 2025-2030, when Bulgaria already has a full squadron of American F-16 fighters.

Less than a month ago, it was announced that the Bulgarian interim government will purchase eight more US F-16 fighter jets for a total value of almost $1.3 billion, to be delivered in 2027, bringing the total of 16 American F- 16 fighter aircraft of the newest block increased 70/72 modification. The parameters of the deal were agreed during the tenure of ex-Prime Minister Kiril Petkov’s government, and the US offer was sent to Bulgaria two months ago.

The cost is similar to that of the first eight fighter jets, but the second batch of aircraft will arrive with significantly more armament, more spare engines and two-seat aircraft.

The second eight jets can be paid for in installments, while the first deal had the planes paid for in advance. Delivery of the first F-16 fighters was scheduled for 2023, but production was delayed by two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The deal must be finally approved at the beginning of the new National Assembly’s term of office, but is likely to be supported by a majority. In the previous parliament, only the socialist party BSP and the pro-Russian populist party Vazrazhdane opposed the purchase of the planes.

Back in 2019, Bulgaria planned to purchase an entire squadron of 16 F-16 fighters to form a combat-ready fighter aviation force.

Currently, the country relies only on the Soviet MiG-29, of which no more than 7-8 aircraft can be deployed at a time. The Russian warplanes can only be deployed until mid-2023, after which the country will have nothing to defend its airspace until 2025.

(Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)

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