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Bulgarian F-16 build begins

Work on the first of 16 F-16 Block 70 aircraft for Bulgaria was officially launched on 16 January. (Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin has begun building the first F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft for Bulgaria at its Greenville facility in South Carolina.

The manufacturer announced the milestone on 16 January, saying seven Block 70 aircraft for Bulgaria are now in various stages of production. One of these, factory serial MY-01, was signed by Bulgarian Minister of Defence Todor Tagarev.

This first aircraft is scheduled to make its maiden flight later in 2024, with in-country deliveries slated to commence in 2025.

Bulgaria has eight F-16C/D Block 70 aircraft under an initial contract, with a follow-on contract for eight more with deliveries to commence from 2027. These 16 aircraft will equip the Bulgarian Air Force (BuAF) with a full squadron. Pilot and maintainer training has been taking place in the United States on two gifted Excess Defense Articles F-16Ds.

As the most up-to-date version of the Fighting Falcon, the F-16 Block 70 features the General Electric F100-GE-129D engine (the Block 72 is fitted with the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229EEP engine, while the F-16V designation denotes a remanufactured airframe that has been brought to the same standard). The Block 70/72 is equipped with the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar that is derived from the F-16E/F Block 60 AN/APG-80 and also known as the Scalable Agile Beam Radar, a new Raytheon mission computer, the Link 16 datalink, modern cockpit displays, an enhanced electronic warfare system, and a ground collision avoidance system.

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