Bulgaria is to shortly despatch to the United States its first cadre of pilots to train on the Lockheed Martin F-16V Block 70 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft, the country’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 5 June.
Bulgaria is to receive eight F-16V aircraft from 2023 to 2027. The first four pilots are to shortly begin their training in the United States.
The first four pilots were announced during a reception with Bulgarian Defence Minister, Krassimir Karakachanov, ahead of their departure to train on the new multirole combat aircraft that is set to replace the country’s ageing Warsaw Pact-era MiG-29 ‘Fulcrum’ fighters.
“This is the future of Bulgarian aviation,” the minister said. “With all due respect and with the best feelings for the MiG-29 aircraft and our other combat equipment, our future is different and we are already betting on a new type of combat aircraft.”
The pilots, dubbed “The Magnificent Four” by Bulgarian media, are Major Stoyan Petkov, Captain Alexander Velinov, Captain Todor Todorov, and Senior Lieutenant Simeon Georgiev. Once in the United States, they will undertake a specialist English-language course (they each already speak English), before going through the full US Air Force training pipeline for the F-16, starting on the Beechcraft T-6C Texan II, before progressing on to the Northrop T-38C Talon and then onto the F-16 itself. This will take place at various locations in the US, and will last for three years and four months.
In April, Lockheed Martin was contracted to build and deliver eight F-16V aircraft for the Bulgarian Air Force (BuAF). The USD512 million Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract will see the aircraft delivered from 2023 through to the end of January 2027, with a further USD800 million expected to be earmarked for support, services, and equipment.