The Bulgarian defense ministry has received approval from the government to buy an additional eight F-16 fighters for an estimated $1.3 billion.
This was confirmed by interim Defence Minister Dimitar Stoyanov, after the US approved the purchase of the second batch of F-16s in April this year.
With the new batch, Bulgaria would bring its F-16 fleet to a full squadron of 16 airframes. These would replace the ageing Russian MiG-29 fighter jets currently in service.
“The new package includes capabilities for strikes air to surface and air to air, meaning we will have one fully-fledged squadron of 16 aircraft,” Stoyanov told reporters on Wednesday following a meeting of the Council of Ministers.
“Acquiring new aircraft is extremely important for the Bulgarian Air Force. We have old Soviet aircraft, which we cannot maintain because of the problems that occurred following the conflict in Ukraine.”
According to the earlier US State Department approval, Bulgaria requested to buy four F-16 C single-seat Block 70 aircraft, and four F-16 D two-seat Block 70 aircraft. The first batch included six single- and two two-seater aircraft.
Bulgaria expected to start receiving the first F-16s under a contract from 2019 in 2023, but this schedule has been delayed by two years due to supply chain disruptions, as stated by former Bulgarian prime minister Kiril Petkov.
Bulgaria’s request for the additional F-16s also included Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) AIM-120C-7/C-8 or equivalent missiles, GBU-39/B small diameter bombs, M61A1 Vulcan cannons, AIM-9X Block II missiles, and Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) tail kits for 500LB GBU-38 or Laser JDAM GBU-54, as well as other bombs.
The definitive agreement for the purchase of additional airframes is still subject to parliament’s approval, which is not expected before the October 2 general elections.