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(DF) PM Borissov: Acquisition of New Fighters Demonstrates Will to Modernize Irreversibly Bulgaria’s Armed Forces

September 29 (BTA) – “The acquisition of the F-16 Block 70 jet fighters is not only a purchase, but a demonstration of Bulgaria’s will to modernize irreversibly its armed forces in order to achieve operational compatibility with the rest of NATO member states,” said Prime Minister Boyko Borissov on Tuesday during a meeting with representatives of the American Lockheed Martin Corporation from which the Bulgarian government is purchasing F-16 fighters for the needs of this country’s defence, the Cabinet press center informed. The meeting was also attended by US Ambassador to Bulgaria Herro Mustafa. The contracts to buy eight newly built F-16 Block 70 jet fighters and necessary ammunition from the US for the Bulgarian Air Force were ratified by the Bulgarian National Assembly on first and second reading on July 19, 2019 and were gazetted at the end of July 2019. Bulgaria agreed to pay 1.2 billion dollars for the acquisition, and the US Congress authorized the appropriation of 56 million dollars in Foreign Military Financing assistance to Bulgaria. As a result of the purchase, this country overshot its 2 per cent target of defence spending as a percentage of GDP. The contracts expire in January 2027. The first two jets are to be delivered in the middle of 2023, and the last two in the first quarter of 2024. The meeting between Borissov and Lockheed Martin focused on the long-term cooperation achieved under the industrial partnership program between Bulgaria and the USA. In addition to the military aspects of the agreements signed, the partnership program also covers the creation of industrial capacity for the maintenance and development of the acquired capabilities in the future. According to the Prime Minister, the framework agreement with Lockheed Martin will boost Bulgaria’s long-term economic development and competitiveness in this field. Borissov also pointed out that the Bulgarian government has committed 300 million leva to the preparation of air bases to house and maintain the new F-16 Block 70 fighters. The first 100 million were transferred from the Defence Ministry budget in August of 2020, and the future infrastructure will also be used by the current aircraft of the Bulgarian Air Force. The Prime Minister also said during the meeting that the government is planning the development of a long-term strategic partnership with Lockheed Martin. To this end, the Ministry of Defence has been looking into possibilities to purchase another eight F-16 Block 70 fighters, new radars, maintenance services and other high-tech equipment related to the modernization of the Bulgarian Armed Forces, according to the press release. NV/MT /МТ/