Bulgaria's military will stop using three dozen of its Russian-made fighter jets and bombers to reassert its independence from Moscow, the defense minister, Velizar Shalamanov said, Bulgaria's Trud newspaper reported Monday.
The military will present a list of new airplanes to replace 15 MiG-29 and six MiG-21 fighters and 14 Sukhoi Su-25 bombers within six months, the report said.
The move is described as a bid to assert Bulgaria’s independence from Russia by Velizar. It is expected to go ahead despite protests by pilots and maintenance workers who expect the replacement of aircraft to cost 300 jobs, Trud reported.
The plan to get rid of all Russian-made aircraft is part of Bulgaria's military development program through 2020 to further integrate the former Soviet bloc nation into the Western NATO defense alliance, of which it is a member, the newspaper reported.
Instead of Russian-made aircraft, according to the defence minister, Bulgaria should buy eight new fighters, for which ends it needed about 300 million euro. Experts polled by the newspaper noted that this money would be enough to buy only old F-16 fighters, since new aircraft cost at least 100 million euro each.
“So far, it is not clear how to negotiate possible purchase of ‘used’ F-16 planes. In 2013, Bulgaria wanted to buy them from Portugal. There are at least two more options - to buy them directly from a United State mission or from Greece, which had bought new planes and now want to get rid of older machines,” the newspaper wrote.