SOFIA Dec 9 Bulgaria plans to spend about 1.5
billion levs ($808.63 million)on eight new or second-hand jet
fighters and has asked Italy, Portugal, the United States and
Sweden to make offers to supply them, the defence ministry said
The fighter jets would replace Bulgaria's ageing
Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighters and would improve the Balkan
country's compliance with NATO standards and reduce its reliance
on Russian-made aircraft.
The Bulgarian parliament has approved the plans and some
funds for the deal have been set aside in the 2017 budget.
"The ministers of defence and the economy have signed a
request for proposals for the delivery of multipurpose jet
fighters," the defence ministry said in a statement.
Sofia will choose between new Gripen jets from Sweden's SAAB
and second-hand U.S. F-16 from Portugal, equipped
with U.S. weaponry. Another option is to buy second-hand
Eurofighter Typhoon fighters from Italy.
A source familiar with the process told Reuters EU and NATO
member Bulgaria would give the four countries three months to
The deal would have to be approved by a new government that
is likely to be formed after elections that are expected in the
spring following the resignation of the country's centre-right
government last month.
Bulgaria signed a deal last year with NATO member Poland for
repairs of the MiG-29 fighters. In November, the country signed
a deal with a Bulgarian company to supply it with four new and
six repaired Russian engines for the aircraft.
($1 = 1.8550 leva)
(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova. Editing by Jane Merriman)