Bulgaria has selected the Saab Gripen as its new future fighter aircraft, the country's interim deputy prime minister reportedly announced on 26 April.
Stefan Yanev said talks will now take place with Sweden to acquire eight aircraft to replace its Warsaw Pact-era MiG-29 'Fulcrum' fighters, the Reuters news agency reported, adding that a special commission into the procurement will be set up within a week.
Saab declined to confirm the sale to Jane's , noting only that, "We have seen the information in the media, and it is encouraging to be on top of the evaluations group's list. With that said, this is one step in an extensive process that will continue going forward."
While not specified in the Reuters report, Saab had offered Bulgaria the C/D-variant of the Gripen, and had offered to restart the production line which had recently transitioned over the E model (some Gripen C/D work has continued as Saab prepares for an expected Slovakia contract) .
In apparently securing selection, the Gripen beat-off competition from the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, which Portugal was offering second-hand, and from the Eurofighter Typhoon, surplus models of which were being offered by Italy.
Bulgaria's fighter modernisation and procurement efforts have been long-running, with the country looking to upgrade its Soviet-era aircraft since it joined NATO in 2004. In 2011 the country scrapped plans to launch an open tender for new fighter aircraft and considered a deal to acquire second-hand F-16 aircraft in a deal similar to that of Romania's procurement of ex-Portuguese aircraft. Prior to the cancellation of this 2011 procurement tender, Saab had reportedly offered to price-match new Gripen C/D aircraft with the second-hand F-16s.
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