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Bulgarian defense minister slams US jet deal for ‘unjustified and high’ F-16 price

Bulgarian defense minister slams US jet deal for ‘unjustified and high’ F-16 price
The price for the US-made F16 jet fighters is “higher than expected” and “unjustified,” the Bulgarian defense minister has said as Sofia continues negotiations on the purchase of the Lockheed Martin’s warplanes.

While the price issue is not currently on the table, officials in Bulgaria think the terms of the deal are disadvantageous for Sofia. That’s according to Defense Minister Krasimir Karakachanov who made the point as he was speaking on local TV.

Personally, I think some of the deal's parameters are not profitable and it is a matter of negotiation that prices are normalized. They are higher than expected and unjustified.

The deal is loaded with options for which it makes no sense to pay, the official lamented giving an example of language training for pilots. These courses are obsolete as all pilots have already been trained in the US, the minister said.

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He also said that Bulgaria will try to bargain the deferred payment for the US aircraft as the single-time purchase would be a heavy burden to the country’s military budget that could hamper proper funding of the existing projects.

The F-16 talks kicked off in January as Bulgarian lawmakers approved the government plan to buy eight new US fighter jets, which are expected to replace the country’s aging MIG-29s. The deal, estimated to be worth $1.05 billion will mark the country’s biggest military procurement since the collapse of the Communist rule back in 1989.

The US offer for F-16s was preferred by Bulgaria over two alternative bids, including Sweden’s new Gripens and Italy’s second-hand Eurofighters. Karakachanov earlier said that unlike the Italian and Swedish variants, the F-16 fighter jets do not need additional agreements for supplies of the necessary weaponry.

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Meanwhile, many politicians in Bulgaria, including President Rumen Radev, have criticized the decision in favor of the US aircraft. Radev who previously served as a commander of the Bulgarian air force slammed the deal for the lack of transparency calling it a “triumph of lobbying.” He also noted that the maintenance of F-16s will cost twice as much as their acquisition and will place excessive demand on the military budget.

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