Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov says U.S. F-16 fighter jets are the best choice to replace the Balkan NATO member’s aging fleet of Soviet-designed MiG-29s.
Borisov spoke on December 14 before the second day of an EU summit in Sofia.
Bulgaria has budgeted 900 million euros ($1 billion) for the purchase of at least eight fighter jets.
The Defense Ministry is reviewing offers from the United States for new Lockheed Martin F-16s and Boeing F-18s, new Gripen jets from Sweden, and used Eurofighters from Italy.
Borisov told reporters he did not want to influence the process, but he said that "from what I have heard from the pilots, a new F-16 is a significantly better aircraft than all the rest that are on offer."
Borisov and Defense Minister Krasimir Karakachanov are to hold separate talks on December 15 with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, who arrived in Sofia on December 14 as part of a tour of Central Europe and the Western Balkans to shore up support against what U.S. officials call “Russia’s aggression on the region.”
Sullivan on December 13 attended the signing of an agreement under which Slovakia is to buy 14 F-16 jets from Lockheed Martin as it seeks to replace its Soviet MiG-29 jets.
"Lockheed Martin has made what I think is a very attractive proposal [to Bulgaria] for the sale of fighter aircraft that other NATO allies have purchased that would make those aircraft, if purchased here, interoperable with those NATO partners," Sullivan said.