SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Bulgaria’s caretaker government said Thursday it has approved the purchase of a second batch of eight new F-16 fighter jets needed to bring its air force in line with NATO standards.
The decision still needs parliamentary approval, but the Cabinet authorized Bulgaria's defense minister to sign the contracts with American aerospace company Lockheed Martin once the expected approval is granted, the government said.
Bulgaria wants to buy four F-16 C Block 70 aircraft and four F-16 D Block 70 aircraft, plus associated munitions and equipment.
It would be the second batch acquired by Bulgaria, which contracted to buy eight multi-role F-16 Block 70 aircraft in July 2019 for $1.3 billion. Plans initially called for the first planes to arrive in Bulgaria in 2023 and the last ones in 2024, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed delivery until 2025.
Bulgaria has ever since sought to update its military's air fleet since the country joined NATO in 2004, but financial problems forced repeated postponements. The country now has a fleet of aging Russian-made MiG-29s fighter jets.
Amid Russia's ongoing war on Ukraine, Bulgaria is relying on assistance from other NATO countries to fulfill its air policing obligations as an alliance member.
Bulgaria’s Defense Ministry said Spain would deploy eight Eurofighter Typhoon jets and up to 200 military personnel to assist the Bulgarian air force next month.