The Bulgarian Air Force will replace its MiG-29s with Block 70 Vipers.
As the U.S. DoD’s release states, Lockheed Martin has been awarded a 512M USD contract, for the production of eight F-16 Block 70 jets for Bulgaria. The work is embedded within the FMS (Foreign Military Sales) process, with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio being the contracting party. The Pentagon has noted that the value also includes 4.2M USD worth of pre-priced options.
The American manufacturer would complete the work in Ft. Worth, Texas; and Greenville, South Carolina. The production is expected to be completed by Jan. 31, 2027.
Bulgaria decided to acquire the Viper (as the F-16 Fighting Falcon is dubbed in the fighter pilots community) in July 2019. The deal concerns, as mentioned above, eight jets (including two two-seaters) and related equipment. The acquisition is aimed at replacing the Bulgarian MiG-29 Fulcrums.
Back in May 2019, as DefenseNews reported at the time, the Bulgarian defense minister Krasimir Karakachanov put pressure on the US, to reduce the price of the deal – the country had decided to pursue a tendering procedure and the Bulgarian official suggested at the time that the government may go back to negotiate with Italy (offering the Typhoon) or Sweden (offering the Gripen).
It is difficult not to compare this situation with the Polish F-35 acquisition, with Warsaw resigning from the competitive procurement process whatsoever.
Bulgarian F-16 procurement is reported to be the largest foreign defense contract involving Sofia since 1989.
Europe is currently on a shopping spree for fighter jets, with acquisitions being in progress in numerous countries, including Germany, Poland, Finland or Switzerland.