The Bulgarian Air Force could have its ageing Soviet-made combat aircraft replaced by new multi-role warplanes in the next three to three-and-a half years, Defence Minister Nikolay Nenchev said on Wednesday.
The government commission tasked with studying the available options is expected to submit a report by the end of March, Nenchev told bTV broadcaster.
He explained that if Bulgaria signed a contract for the acquisition of a new type or types of combat aircraft by the end of 2016, which was highly likely for a new multi-role aircraft, the planes would enter service with the country’s Air Force in the next three to three-and-a half years.
Nenchev also elaborated on his prevoius statement that Bulgaria would call a tender for six new engines for its twin-engine MiG-29 fighter jets by the end of January.
According to Nenchev, the new engines will be Russian-made but Bulgaria won’t buy them from Russia as a research conducted by the Defence Ministry has shown that there are many such engines in countries of western and eastern Europe that are not being used.
Nenchev also said that Bulgaria’s parliament was expected to vote soon on a change in legislation opening the way for joint air policing of the country’s airspace with other NATO member states. A decision for joint air policing missions had been taken at the Alliance summit in Wales in 2014, he added.
Bulgaria has held informal talks on joint air policing missions of its airspace with Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, but not with neighbouring Turkey, according to Nenchev.