Aerial Warfare

Lockheed Martin Reveals First F-16 Block 70 for Bulgarian Air Force

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Lockheed Martin Reveals First F-16 Block 70 for Bulgarian Air Force

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Lockheed Martin Reveals First F-16 Block 70 for Bulgarian Air Force
Lockheed Martin Reveals First F-16 Block 70 for Bulgarian Air Force

Bulgarian Minister of Defence Todor Tagarev, Bulgarian Ambassador Georgi Panayotov, and Bulgarian Defence Chief Adm. Emil Eftimov visited Lockheed Martin’s F-16 production facility in Greenville last week to view progress in the production of Bulgarian Air Force’s future F-16 Block 70 fleet. The US Department of Defense (DoD) has contracted Lockheed Martin to build a second batch of F-16 for Bulgaria. Currently, seven Bulgarian F-16s are in various stages of production, and the inaugural flight of the first Bulgarian F-16 Block 70 is planned for later this year. Bulgaria will be the second European country to receive the F-16 Block 70. With a current backlog of 135 jets, the F-16 production line in Greenville serves as a cornerstone of security for allies around the world.

The contract notification published on 14 September 2023 authorises the production of eight F-16C/D Block 70 to add to the eight already under contract. News of the contract came 10 months after Bulgaria signed a letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) for additional F-16s that had been cleared for sale by the U.S. earlier in 2022. Work on the USD151.36 million Foreign Military Sales (FMS) award will run through to 30 September 2027. Given the value of the deal is just USD18.92 million per aircraft, further awards are likely to follow. The Bulgarian government previously announced that a total of USD1.3 billion is to be spent on the eight additional F-16s to equip the Air Force with a full squadron.

Bulgarian Defense Minister Todor Tagarev signs the fuselage of the first F-16 Block 70 aircraft for Bulgaria during a visit to Lockheed Martin's plant in Greenville, South Carolina, where the F-16 final assembly line is now located.

Bulgarian Defense Minister Todor Tagarev signs the fuselage of the first F-16 Block 70 aircraft for Bulgaria during a visit to Lockheed Martin’s plant in Greenville, South Carolina, where the F-16 final assembly line is now located. (Photo by Lockheed Martin)

OJ Sanchez, vice president and general manager of the Integrated Fighter Group at Lockheed Martin, said: “Bulgaria is acquiring a proven, state-of-the-art fighter aircraft system that will deliver decades of 21st Century Security capabilities and NATO interoperability. We are proud that the most advanced F-16 ever produced will aid in Bulgaria’s national security.”

Fighting Falcon is an American single-engine supersonic multirole fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) for the U.S. Force. More than 3,100 F-16s are operating today in 25 countries. The F-16 has flown an estimated 19.5 million flight hours and at least 13 million sorties. Today’s latest version, the Block 70/72, offers unparalleled capabilities and will be flown by six countries and counting. The Block 70/72 features advanced avionics, a proven Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, a modernized cockpit with new safety features, advanced weapons, conformalfuel tanks, an improved performance engine, advanced Common Digital Flight Control Computer with an enhanced Autopilot/ Auto Throttle with life-saving Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS) and an industry leading extended structural service life of 12,000 hours. New production aircraft; structural, and capability upgrades ensure the international F-16 fleet can operate to 2060 and beyond.

A delegation from Bulgaria visited Greenville, South Carolina, last week to view progress on the F-16 production line. The inaugural flight of the first Bulgarian F-16 Block 70 is planned for later this year.
A delegation from Bulgaria visited Greenville, South Carolina, last week to view progress on the F-16 production line. The inaugural flight of the first Bulgarian F-16 Block 70 is planned for later this year. (Photo by Lockheed Martin)

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