SOFIA, June 14 Sweden's Saab expects
to enter into talks with Bulgaria in a few months to supply it
with new Gripen fighter jets, a company executive said on
The previous interim government in Sofia had said talks
should start with Sweden for the purchase of eight Gripen
aircraft, but current Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has cast
doubts on whether Sofia should rush into a deal, estimated at
1.5 billion levs ($860 million).
The defence ministry, looking to replace ageing MiG-29
aircraft, had picked the Swedish jet over an offer from Portugal
and the United States for second-hand U.S. F-16s and an
Italian offer of second-hand Eurofighter Typhoons.
"What we hope and expect is that we would be called to
negotiate ... probably after the summer break," Magnus
Lewis-Olsson, Saab's head of Europe, told reporters in Sofia.
"If Bulgaria wants their aircraft in quite quickly then
obviously we hope negotiations (are going) to start soon because
we've got to build the aircraft as well," he said.
Bulgarian officials say the country, a member of the
European Union and NATO, should move ahead simultaneously with
buying new ships and armoured vehicles for its army, and that
would require significant financial resources.
Lewis-Olsson said Saab was ready to discuss different
financing options, including payments over a long period, and
would be prepared to provide about 4 fighter jets in 18 months
"This is something that is going to last for 40 years, it is
a cost for a country for a long time, so we are prepared to
discuss how we finance it," he said.
Last month Saab, which has provided Gripen warplanes to
Hungary and the Czech Republic, said it hoped Croatia could
enter the market for fighter jets soon and that it would hold
talks with Slovakia over new aircraft.
($1 = 1.7443 leva)
(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Mark Potter)