Bulgaria is set to receive eight F-16 Block 70 aircraft, analogous to the US Air Force M7 standard pictured, with a request for a further eight. The country has been told to expect a delay in its deliveries due to supplier and Covid problems. (US Air Force)
Delivery of the eight Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft for the Bulgarian Air Force is to be delayed by ‘several months' due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bulgarian Defence Minister Stefan Yanev announced the news during a hearing in front of the Defence Committee of the Bulgarian Parliament on 25 January.
Yanev said he had received information from the manufacturer citing delays in the supply chain that would affect all customers of the newly-produced F-16s. He said he expected the delay to be measured in months, but then added that the exact length would be known in the second half of February, when a US delegation is set to arrive in Sofia to discuss the Bulgarian programme.
The Bulgarian Ministry of Defence (MoD) placed an order for eight F-16C/D Block 70s in July 2019. The delivery schedule announced at the time called for the first two aircraft to be received in November 2023, followed by four more in April 2024, with the final two arriving in August 2024.
The recently installed Bulgarian defence minister said during his hearing that the programme for industrial co-operation between Bulgaria and Lockheed Martin, related to the F-16 procurement, has made no real development so far, but he did not say whether this is also due to the pandemic.