Not without controversy the Bulgarian Government has decided to open negotiations with the US for the F-16V. Should be a good aircraft for them to operate for a significant period of time. With neighbour Romania recently acquiring F-16s and looking to acquire more, Greece operating the F-16, as well as Slovakia also acquiring the F-16V in the next few years there should be plenty of spares and long term maintenance knowledge around. Parliament Assigns Government to Hold Negotiations with US on Acquisition of New Fighter Aircraft
In a 130-84 vote with no abstentions, Parliament Wednesday assigned the government to draw up a draft international agreement and hold negotiations with the United States on Bulgaria's acquisition of a new type of fighter aircraft, F-16V, Block 70. The negotiations mandate was supported by the MPs of GERB, 23 MPs of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), 11 MPs of the United Patriots, and two independent MPs. The MPs who voted against were 66 from the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), four MPs from Volya and 14 MPs from the United Patriots.
Parliament tasked the Prime Minister to make arrangements and come up with a team to draw up the draft agreement and conduct the negotiations. On the team will be the ministers of defence, economy, foreign affairs, and finance.
The draft agreement may deviate from the initial spending requirements.
The debates on the motion took up almost the entire plenary day.
MRF leader Mustafa Karadayi said that his party categorically supports the motion and Bulgaria's Euro-Atlantic orientation.
BSP leader Kornelia Ninova said that her party is in favour of the Army's modernization but is against the motion for several reasons, such as the unknown financial parametres of the deal and how much it will cost the Bulgarian tax payers. In her words, this decision once again pits the powerholders and the presidential institution against each other. "Last but not least, the strategic decision will be taken by GERB, the MRF and VMRO - does this look like a new ruling coalition to you?" she asked.
Socialist MP Roumen Gechev compared the decision to "the obituary of the Bulgarian aviation, which is on its knees now while the new aircraft will arrive in five years' time". The BSP projects that the outlay for the aircraft may exceed two billion leva, up from the current cap of 1.8 billion leva.
The United Patriots were divided on the motion. The leader of the National Front for Salvation of Bulgaria, Valeri Simeonov, said that Bulgaria could better and cheaper safeguard its airspace with anti-aircraft missile systems. "It is ridiculous to rely on eight, or possibly 16, aircraft to defend against countries who have many more," Simeonov said. He argued that the acquisition of the aircraft is insensible spending, and that Bulgaria should have chosen a European maker.
United Patriots Floor Leader and Ataka leader Volen Siderov said that "since the United States has been using four military bases in Bulgaria free of charge for years, the country can give Bulgaria the fighter jets also free of charge".