by Staff Writers
Ribaritsa, Bulgaria (AFP) Oct 26, 2012
Bulgaria will seek to acquire eight new or used fighter jets for its air force in 2014, Defence Minister Anyu Angelov said Friday.
"I will seek ... next week a mandate for talks with different countries for the supply of new fighter jets," Angelov told journalists while on a visit to Ribaritsa, in northern Bulgaria. "Our aim is to acquire eight fighters but they can also become nine depending on the price."
The minister said he hoped to wrap up talks by the end of the year and then seek approval from the cabinet and parliament for the estimated 400-million-dollar (309-million-euro) deal, to be concluded in 2014.
Bulgaria can launch preliminary jet pilot training the same year with a view to start flying its new aircraft in late 2014 or early 2015, Angelov said.
The defence ministry has already held preliminary talks on the possibility of acquiring second-hand fighters from the Netherlands, Portugal, the United States and Germany and plans to also hold talks with Belgium, Norway and Italy, the minister said.
Angelov ruled out the purchase of jets from European defence giant EADS or US Lockheed Martin due to financial constraints.
But he said there was a possibility of purchasing Gripen fighters from Sweden.
"The possibility to buy new Gripen jets is still standing however and will be reviewed on an equal footing with the rest of the second-hand offers," the minister noted.
The acquisition of new multi-purpose fighters for Bulgaria's air force has so far been delayed due to severe financial constraints.
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