Bulgaria is at risk of being without combat aviation for the next two years as maintenance of its outdated MiG29 fighters will not be completed before it receives its first F-16s from the US.
By the end of this year, Bulgaria’s eight MiG-29 fighter jets are to be grounded, and the repair of engines, conducted by Poland, has not gone as expected.
It was reported Monday that Poland could only sell Bulgaria one MiG-29 engine though Bulgaria expected two, as well as four at a later stage.
Bulgaria is only expected to renew its fleet from 2025, as the 16 F-16 Block 70 fighter jets it ordered from the US are only expected to be delivered by 2025, with training expected to take an additional two years.
In the meantime, NATO allies will have to step in to protect the airspace of this important part of the Alliance’s eastern flank.
Active negotiations are currently being held with Sweden, France and Israel, with Bulgaria having the greatest chance of obtaining French Mirage 2000 destroyers or Swedish Grippen.
“We have not received offers from the countries to which the request was made. Talks with Israel, Sweden and France continue,” Bulgarian Defence Minister Dimitar Stoyanov has said.
To accommodate the new jets, Bulgaria’s airports also need to be properly fitted.
“I hope that by mid-2024, all infrastructure projects of the military airport Graf Ignatievo will be completed,” Stoyanov said about the reconstruction projects that have already been delayed by two years.