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Saab defends Gripen in Bulgaria, waits on Slovakia

22 September 2017

Saab has defended the suitability of its Gripen C/D for meeting Bulgaria’s future fighter needs after the country’s prime minister reportedly expressed doubts that the aircraft represents the best choice, while the Swedish firm separately awaits notification from the Slovakian government following reports of a possible postponement of the country's fighter procurement process.

With Bulgarian and Slovakia having opted for the Gripen C/D, both countries are now reportedly reconsidering their fighter procurement plans. (Czech MoD)With Bulgarian and Slovakia having opted for the Gripen C/D, both countries are now reportedly reconsidering their fighter procurement plans. (Czech MoD)

A Saab official told Jane’s on 22 September that its offer of new-build Gripen C/Ds fully meets Bulgaria’s requirements, after national media reported that the country’s prime minister Boyko Borissov had questioned whether the jet was the best option to replace the air force’s Warsaw Pact-era MiG-29 ‘Fulcrum’ combat aircraft.

The official further stated that no formal notification from the Slovakian government had been received, after media reports that the country is to postpone its MiG-29 replacement effort.

Commenting on Bulgaria, Gripen's head of marketing and sales, Richard Smith, told Jane’s : “We have offered new-build Gripen C/D fighter aircraft that fully reflect the short- and long-term security interests of Bulgaria, which includes NATO interoperability and meets the demanding deadlines set by Bulgaria. Delivery time is clearly one of our competitive advantages, together with our ability to offer flexible payment schemes and the Gripen’s low life-cycle costs. We believe that these are the grounds for our down-selection in April by the government-appointed independent committee of experts.”

In April, the Gripen C/D prevailed against competition from the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, offered by Portugal as a second-hand procurement – and from Italy's offer of surplus models of the Eurofighter Typhoon – for recommendation by the interim Bulgarian government. Negotiations were due to commence shortly subsequent to this; however, according to the Sofia Globe the country’s parliament is expected to restart the process, with new requests for proposals (RFPs) to be issued.

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