The Bulgarian Ministry of Defence declared its preference on 21 December for 8 new-build Lockheed Martin F-16V Block 70 fighters to improve its compliance with NATO standards. The defense ministry asked the government to start direct talks with Washington regarding a government-to-government purchase, after which the proposal will have to be submitted for approval by the country’s Bulgarian parliament. A member of NATO since 2004, Bulgaria has earmarked 900 million euros ($1 billion) for the purchase of at least eight fighter jets. Lockheed Martin’s initial offer, however, exceeded this sum.
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 ($1.05 billion). The US and Sweden have emerged as the main contenders to sell Bulgaria fourth generation multi-purpose jet fighters. They collectively signal that Bulgaria’s political establishment is leaning towards the US-made Lockheed Martin jets – an option clearly preferred by Prime Minister Borissov.
Lockheed Martin responded by promising that the selection of the latest generation of F-16 jets would “create the potential for young Bulgarian engineers and scientists to become involved in a new generation of unmanned aircraft and other cutting-edge autonomous systems, for both commercial and military use”. On 12 December, Washington issued a statement saying that it “strongly supports Croatia’s modernization of its defence system, including the purchase of F-16 jets from Israel”. Earlier in December, Slovakia also chose F-16 Block 70 jets ahead of the Gripen C/D ones.
The Lockheed Martin F-16V Block 70/72 is the latest and most advanced F-16 on the market today. The F-16 Block 70/72 configuration includes numerous enhancements designed to keep the F-16 at the forefront of international security, strengthening its position as the world’s foremost combat-proven 4th Generation multi-role fighter aircraft. The F-16 Block 70/72 provides advanced combat capabilities in a scalable and affordable package. The core of the F-16 Block 70/72 configuration is an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, a modern commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-based avionics subsystem, a large-format, high-resolution display; and a high-volume, high-speed data bus.