Italy, Sweden, US submit bids to sell fighter jets to Bulgaria

Italy, Sweden and the United States submitted bids on Monday to sell fighter jets to Bulgaria’s ailing air force, according to the Defense Ministry in Sofia. A NATO member since 2004, the Balkan country is obliged to keep at least one squadron of jets ready for action. The number of the country’s ageing Soviet-built MiG-29s has progressively dwindled to just seven, prompting repeated alerts about drastic shortages in pilots’ flying hours. The Defense Ministry had already sought offers for new or used fighters in late 2016, and shortlisted Sweden’s Gripen as its preferred option. The procedure was sidelined by the new conservative cabinet, which renewed earlier this year a request for proposals from other suppliers. The US made two bids – for new Boeing F-18s and F-16s by Lockheed Martin – while Sweden offered new Gripen fighters, and Italy proposed second-hand Eurofighter jets, AFP reports. There was no deadline, but Bulgaria’s military said “Our desire is to do it quickly. We have a budget that we want to spend.”

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