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Bulgaria receives first interim fighter offers

With its MiG-29s (pictured) nearing the end of their service lives and the newly acquired F-16 Block 70s not set to arrive for a few years, Bulgaria is planning to field interim fighter aircraft from 2023 to the end of the decade to bridge the capability gap. (Bulgarian Air Force)

Bulgaria has begun to receive offers for the supply of interim combat aircraft as it struggles to maintain the airworthiness of its MiG-29s at the same time as managing a delay to the arrival of its Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Block 70s.

Bulgarian Defence Minister Dimitar Stoyanov announced in early October that he had sought information on interim fighters from Sweden, France, the United States, and Israel, and that information had been received from the first two and was being awaited from the latter two.

“[Stoyanov] indicated that the goal [of receiving the interim aircraft] is 2023, when the MiG-29 is expected to end,” the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said, adding that the 16 F-16 Block 70s that are being ordered in two batches will be received and attain combat capability from 2027/28 to 2030.

Although not named in Stoyanov's announcement, the interim fighter types are the Saab Gripen C/D from Sweden, the Dassault Rafale from France, and early-model F-16s from the US and Israel.

The defence minister said that, upon completion of the agreed lease period, the aircraft can be returned or purchased and retained in Bulgarian service.

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