Bulgarian Fighter Tender

The Bulgarian Ministry of Defence (MoD) sent a request for proposals (RFP) to potential suppliers of a new multi-role fighter aircraft for the Bulgarski Voenno Vzdushni Sili (Bulgarian Air Force) on December 9, 2016. The new fighter is set to replace MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters and Su-25 Frogfoot attack aircraft. The RFP was issued to four countries on a so-called shortlist: Italy, Portugal, Sweden and the United States. Each nation must provide its proposal by mid-March 2017 in order to meet the technical, operational, financial and legal requirements outlined in the RFP.

Portugal and the United States are expected to submit a combined proposal for second-hand Block 15 F-16s upgraded to the midlife upgrade standard. This proposal is likely to involve F-16s currently held in storage in the United States and delivered to OGMA’s facility at Alverca in Portugal for refurbishment and upgrade. A weapons and logistics support package would be provided by the United States as a Foreign Military Sales programme.

Italy’s proposal comprises second-hand Tranche 1 standard Eurofighter Typhoons currently in service with the Aeronautica Militare.

Sweden is the only nation offering new aircraft in the shape of the JAS 39C Gripen, though the weapons package will most likely be sourced from the United States.

The Bulgarian Government has allocated a budget of €767 million for a first batch involving a minimum of eight aircraft and a logistics support package, including ground support and test equipment, training, mission planning and debriefing systems, and weapons. The Bulgarian MoD’s plan requires an eventual 16-aircraft fleet, but due to budget constraints the programme has been divided into two phases. Currently being implemented, phase one covers eight aircraft, which are slated to be taken on strength between 2018 and 2021, the funding for which was approved by the Bulgarian Parliament in June 2016. Phase two is set to be implemented between 2022 and 2023, involve purchase of another eight aircraft.

Alexander Mladenov and Krassimir Grozev