US Approves Possible Bulgarian F-16V Purchase

Above: An impression of the Lockheed Martin F-16V. Lockheed Martin

US STATE Department approval has been granted for a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Bulgaria of eight F-16C/D Block 70/72 (F-16V) aircraft atan estimated cost of $1.673 billion, including equipment and support.  The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced the approval yesterday, June 3,stating that it had delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on May 30.

In addition to the eight F-16 C/D Block 70/72 aircraft; the Government of Bulgaria has requested to buy ten F110 General Electric engines (including two spares); ten Link-16 Multi-Functional Information Distribution System (MIDS) – JTRS (MIDS-JTRS) (including two spares); nine Improved Program Display Generators (iPDG) (including one spare); nine AN/APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radars (including one spare); four AN/AAQ-33 SNIPER Targeting Pods; nine Modular Mission Computers (MMC) 7000AH (including one spare); nine LN-260 Embedded GPS/INS (EGI); nine M61 Vulcan 20mm Cannons; 16 AIM-120C7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs); one AIM-120C7 Spare Guidance Section; 24 AIM-9X Sidewinder Missiles; eight AIM-9X Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM); four AIM-9X Spare Tactical Guidance Sections; four AIM-9X Spare CATM Guidance Sections; 48 LAU-129 Multi-Purpose Launchers; 15 GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II Kits; 15 GBU-54 Laser JDAM Kits; 28 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs (SDB-1); 24 FMU-152 Fuzes; 24 Mk 82 Bombs (Tritonal); six Mk 82 Bombs (Inert); and 13 MAU-210 Enhanced Computer Control Group (ECCG).

Also included are nine AN/ALQ-211 Internal Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suites (including one spare); nine AN/ALE-47 Countermeasure Dispensers (including one spare); 4,140 Infrared Flare countermeasures, with impulse cartridges; 8,250 each of PGU-27A/B 20mm training and combat munitions; 36 Mk 124 Signal/Smoke Illumination devices; nine APX-126 Advanced Identification Friend or Foe (AIFF) units with Secure Communications and Cryptographic Appliques; 18 AN/ARC-238 UHF/VHF SATURN Radios; 16 AIM-120C AMRAAM training CATMs; Joint Mission Planning System (JMPS) with software, training and support; 20 Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) II with Night Vision Goggle compatibility; ten Night Vision Devices; two Remote Operated Video Enhanced Receiver (ROVER) 6i units, plus one ground station; ground training device (flight and maintenance simulator); one Avionics I-level Test Station; Electronic Combat International Security Assistance Program (ECISAP) support; Cartridge Actuated and Propellant Actuated Devices (CAD/PAD) support; Common Munitions Bit-test Reprogramming Equipment (CMBRE) support with Computer Test Set Adapter Group; communications equipment; software delivery and support; facilities and construction support; spares and repair/replace parts; personnel training and training equipment; publications and technical documentation; containers; munition support and test equipment; aircraft and munition integration and test support; studies and surveys; US Government and contractor technical, engineering and logistical support services; plus other related elements of logistics and programme support

These aircraft will provide Bulgaria with a fleet of modernized multi-role combat aircraft, ensuring that Bulgaria can effectively operate in hazardous areas and enhancing the Bulgarian Air Force’s interoperability with US as well as NATO forces.  Bulgaria currently relies on the United States and the United Kingdom to participate in joint air policing.  By acquiring these F-16s and the associated sustainment and training package, Bulgaria will be able to provide for the defence of its own airspace and borders.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov had stated while talking to reporters during an EU summit in Sofia on December 14 last year that the F-16 was the preferred option for replacement of the Bulgarian Air Force’s MiG-29s.  On January 16 the Bulgarian parliament approved plans to begin talks for the F-16V acquisition.  More recently, on May 21, Bulgarian Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov said in a TV interview that he considered the cost of the F-16 purchase to be too high.  The Saab Gripen and pre-owned Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons had previously been considered and Bulgaria could revert to one of these options if it is unable to negotiate a lower price for the F-16s.