The Lockheed Martin group presented in Sofia the offer of F-16 Block 70 aircraft as its offer in the re-launched tender for the successor of the Bulgarian MiG-29. This is one of the seven options considered, three of which concern the purchase of F-16 machines, and two Eurofighter Typhoon.
The presentation of the Lockheed Martin offer took place on 19 September in the elegant Arena di Serdica Boutique Hotel, organized by the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria – an organization promoting “Euro-Atlantic values” in the countries of former Central and Eastern Europe. The offer also benefits from the support of the American administration. The Lockheed Martin group was represented by Kalinka Kovacheva, responsible for the markets of Bulgaria and Macedonia. She presented the offer of the latest model F-16 Block 70 Super Viper to the representatives of the Bulgarian government, air force and press together with a simulator, training and operating support system.
F-16 Block 70 (so-called Super Viper) is the latest version of this machine based on F-16IN, developed for India and having specific solutions, such as built-in IRST infrared sensor. The machines use many solutions used in F-35 aircraft, especially in the field of avionics and combat systems. Among them are the AESA Northrop Grumman AN / APG-83 SABER radar (Scalable Agile Beam Radar) based on the AN / APG-81 radiolocation station used in the F-35, or the Helmet Mount Helmet Mounted Cueing System. This enables the use of the latest generation of weaponry, including AIM-120C7 and AIM-9X air-to-air missiles and Paveway IV and JDAM guided bombs.
The drive is a new generation Generation F110 or Pratt & Whitney F100.
Of course, such a modern machine is not cheap. As for the price asked by one of the journalists, an evasive answer was made that this issue will be the subject of intergovernmental talks. This is a key issue because Bulgaria has a very slim budget for the purchase of new aircraft. For the purchase of eight fighters and three-year support for their exploitation, Sofia plans to spend 1.08 billion dollars. Meanwhile, Bahrain, the first buyer of F-16 Block 70, will pay for it after about 145 million dollars, already having the infrastructure for the existing fleet of F-16 machines.
The estimated value of the purchase of F-16 Block 70/72 for Slovakia is more adequate here, which, like Bulgaria, replaces MiGi-29. The value estimated under FMS is a maximum of USD 2.91 billion, or about PLN 204 million for each aircraft. For Bulgaria, such costs may turn out to be too high. In return, however, one of the most modern aircraft is offered, and – above all – these are new machines. Meanwhile, among the bidders for the contract, there are as many as four bidders of used machines, two of them propose F-16.
Officially, the deadline for the submission of offers is coming soon, because October 1, but it is already known today that the contract for 8 Bulgarian fighters will compete with proposals from seven countries:
⏩The USA offers new Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70 machines, but also competitive Boeing F / A-18 E / F Super Hornets or used but deeply upgraded Hornets.
⏩Germany proposes brand new Eurofighter Tranche 3 aircraft.
⏩France can propose both new and used Dassault Rafale.
⏩Sweden will again offer the new Saab Gripen C / D or used machines modified for configuration used by the Czech Republic and Hungary.
⏩Portugal once again (as in Romania) has on offer from third countries, used and modernized F-16A / B MLU OFP M6.
⏩ Israel proposes F-16C / D, also obtained second-hand and modernized.
⏩The Italian offer includes used Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 1 fighters.
As you can see, Sofia will have a very large selection, although a large part of the offer are planes on the other, and sometimes third-hand. The experience of Romania in terms of the rising operating costs of the F-16 used from Portugal, may lead the government in Sofia to acquire new machines. However, financial possibilities, but also enormous involvement of political factors in this matter, may lead to cost cutting through the purchase of used aircraft.
Regardless of the final decision, the purchase of fighters by this country will certainly improve the situation in the field of regional security. Currently, the protection of the Bulgarian airspace is exercised by delegated aircraft of other NATO countries, when for many years it was Sofia that should send at least four planes to allied missions. This is a situation that led to many years of delaying the necessary purchases and playing political interests of foreign companies and agents of influence. First, they were the interests of Russian companies, then the struggle between parties supporting the interests of two different bidders, which led to a sharp political crisis. But this is a subject for quite a separate analysis. I refer to interested parties to previous texts on the Bulgarian “fighter crisis”.
(By : Juliusz Sabak /Defence 24)
(Translated from Polish)