Bulgarian PM: Pilots tell me F-16 is best

File photo. A Polish F-16 fighter turns starboard after being refuelled through the 'boom pod' of an US Air Force KC-135 'Stratotanker'. [Jakub Kaczmarczyk/EPA/EFE]

Bulgaria needs a plane capable not only of patrolling, but conducting combat operations and winning, and that means buying F-16s, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov told journalists on Friday (14 December), adding that he didn’t want to influence an ongoing tender in the country.

Borissov spoke ahead of the start of the second day of the EU summit. He was asked to comment on the news that Lockheed Martin, the company producing F-16, had improved their offer.

Bulgaria wants to buy eight fighter jets to replace its ageing Soviet-designed MiG-29s, in a tender estimated at 1.8 billion levs (€900 million). The United States offered two options: either new Lockheed Martin F-16V jets or new Boeing F-18 Super Hornets. Sweden offered new Saab Gripen jets, while Italy proposed supplying second-hand Eurofighters.

Bulgaria to choose between Swedish or US fighter jets

The United States, Sweden and Italy have filed bids to supply Bulgaria with eight fighter jets aimed at replacing its ageing Soviet-designed MiG-29s, in a tender estimated at 1.8 billion levs (€900 million), the defence ministry said on Monday (1 October).

“I hope that they [Lockheed Martin] offer better conditions, because as I spoke to pilots, a new F-16 is a much better plane than all the rest on offer, the old Eurofighters, the Grippens and others,” he said.

“But there are commissions in charge of this, I don’t interfere in any way, except that I want the best airplane for our military aviation,” he added.

He said he wanted a combat plane because the situation in the region was getting more complex, and it was not enough to perform air policing, or patrol missions.

“We need a combat plane capable of conducting military actions and winning”, Borissov said. He added that according to his information, neighbouring countries had or aimed to buy the same kind of fighter jets.

Borissov slammed previous governments, who in his words had only bought transport airplanes from Western producers, saying that those planes could only serve to take on board the top brass “so that they could escape” in case of conflict.

“That’s why I want combat machines to be bought, so that our pilots would know that they have the chance to win in combat”, he said.

Asked by EURACTIV against whom the combat would take place, Borissov smiled and said “the aggressor, whoever it is”.

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