The Bulgarian authorities included the assets, required to acquire new generation fighter jets, in the budgetary plan for the upcoming year. The new fighters are to be purchased, in order to replace the MiG-21 and MiG-29 jets - as the Novinite.com website reports. The above means that Sofia is willing to increase the defence spending, even though this year’s budget was to be limited, in comparison with 2014. This is also an important signal which allows the Central European nations to remain coherent, in the context of threat posed by Russia.
According to Novinite.com, the fact that the FY2016 budget includes assets required to acquire new multi-role jets was announced by the Bulgarian Minister of Finances, Vladislav Goranov. Goranov noted that the funds will allow Bulgaria to acquire only half a fighter squadron (most probably - four to six jet fighters).
At the beginning of October, the Bulgarian government approved the development plan for the Armed Forces, assuming that the defence expenditure is going to be gradually increased, inter alia in order to carry out a technological modernization. When the above event is interpreted along with the declarations made by the Ministry of Finances, the information is very significant, since, in 2015, according to the NATO data, the defence funds were to be limited in comparison with the preceding year, which was an unusual situation in comparison with the Central European NATO member states, forming the NATO “Eastern Flank”. This year, the Baltic states and all members of the Visegrad Group, along with Romania, increased the defence funding.
Let us recall the fact that the financial situation of the Ministry of Defence forced the Bulgarians to delay the acquisition of the new fighter jets. The aim of the procurement was to replace the MiG-21 and MiG-29 fighter jets, with both types being currently used by the Air Force. In the light of the above, a decision was made to carry out overhauls of the MiG-29 fighters in Poland. A respective intergovernmental agreement has been concluded in October. The fact that the procurement of the new fighters has been initiated does not mean that the Bulgarian jets are going to be decommissioned, since introduction of the new fighters into service may take some time. In 2015 the Bulgarian defence spending was contained, according to the data available from NATO, in an amount of USD 523 million, equivalent to 1.2% of the GDP.
Potentially, there is a possibility that the newly acquired jets are going to be operated parallel to the MiG-29 Fulcrums, since there is a growing need to replace the obsolete MiG-21 fighters and Su-25 attack aircraft. Romania decided to double the number of the acquired second-hand F-16 fighter jets. Most probably the decision has been taken as a response to the deteriorating situation within the scope of security. It is a symptom of increased Romanian defence budget. Considering the financial status of the Ministry of Defence, acquisition of second hand F-16 or Gripen jets is the most probable solution, in case of this problem.
Bulgarian plans assumed that 8 fighters would be ultimately acquired until 2016, according to the commitments made when Bulgaria joined the NATO alliance. However, the aforementioned promises did not come true. It seems that Sofia is going to decide to carry out the required modernization programme, related to the air force. The defence procurement plans also include acquisition of modular patrol vessels, modernization of the E-71 frigates, acquisition of the command and detection systems used by the Air Force. Moreover, Bulgaria also plans to purchase additional equipment for the modular battalion combat groups of the mechanized forces. The latter procurement plans include acquisition of the infantry fighting vehicles.
Sofia’s decision to increase the defence budget makes it possible to maintain coherence and consistency within the area of Mid-Eastern Europe, within the scope of realizing the Wales commitments, according to which the states in Middle Europe are to use no less than 2% of the GDP in order to realize their defence expenditure. The above also makes it possible to initiate the armed forces modernization programme, which is a very important issue, even if the initiative is being carried out only in a limited scope. Finally, the procurement is a part of the activities, the aim of which is to create a joint stance of the Central European NATO member states, for the Warsaw NATO summit. The above issue is going to be discussed in Bucharest by the Polish President, Andrzej Duda.