Bulgarian MiG-29 Investment

Long-delayed investment in the maintenance of the Bulgarski Voenno Vzdushni Sili (BVVS or Bulgarian Air Force) MiG-29 Fulcrum fleet came to end in November and December 2016 when three contracts were signed. After 18 months of chaotic searching for new suppliers and failed public procurement tenders, following the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence’s decision to break links with RSK MiG (the MiG-29’s design authority and manufacturer), the search proved next to impossible.

One contract was signed with Poland, for the overhaul of six RD-33 engines valued at €6.138 million, Poland’s aviation maintenance industry lacked capacity to fulfil the entire maintenance needs of Bulgaria’s crippled Fulcrum fleet.

A small number of BVVS MiG-29s were maintained in operational condition during 2016 for the quick reaction alert role, thanks only to service life extensions of engines, accessory gearboxes and other systems undertaken by BVVS maintenance personnel and approved by the air force Commanderin- Chief.

Tenders launched by the Bulgarian MoD in April for purchase of new and secondhand RD-33 engines and KSA-2 accessory gearboxes failed to attract any bidders, because of the unrealistic terms and conditions set. Bidders were required to hold a stock of new and/or overhauled engines and gearboxes ready for delivery immediately after contract signature.

Failure forced the MoD to launch urgent procurement procedures, which ended with the MoD backtracking on its break with Russian industry. Sofia-based arms trade company Aviostart Ltd, acting as representative of RSK MiG, was awarded a contract to delivery four new and six overhauled second-hand RD-33 Series 2 engines for €21.83 million and seven new KSA-2 accessory gearboxes for €11.165 million. The first two overhauled engines are due to be delivered in April 2017.

In October, the Bulgarian MoD signed another contract with Ukrainian arms company Ukrinmash for delivery of a MiG-29 spares package valued at €2.079 million.

Doubt remains over the company’s ability to deliver the spares package, because all new Russian-made spares are unobtainable due to the strict embargo imposed by the Russian Government on all deliveries of Russian-made goods to Ukraine.

Alexander Mladenov and Krassimir Grozev