Bulgaria’s new government has reportedly favoured Saab AB fighter jets to replace its outdated Soviet-era aircraft and is likely to begin negotiations soon.
“A working group involving representatives of several institutions has been set up, which will hold negotiations with the first-ranked bidder,” interim Prime Minister Ognyan Gerdzhikov was quoted as saying by various media.
The interim government approved last week a ranking of the jet supply bids, which put the Swedish Gripen fighter jets offer first, followed by an offer from Portugal of second-hand U.S. F-16s equipped with U.S. weaponry. An offer from Italy of second-hand Eurofigher Typhoon fighters was ranked third.
However, interim deputy premier Stefan Yanev, also deputy defence minister, stressed that the ranking of the offers did not pre-determine the jet purchase deal.
"This protocol does not pre-determine a winner. It does not pre-determine by what way the next government will choose to start talks with these three bidders," Yanev told reporters Tuesday.
Bulgaria plans to seal a deal by the year-end to acquire eight new or second-hand fighter jets between 2018-2022 to replace its ageing Soviet-designed MiG-29s.
The Saab jets is planned for delivery in 18 months. The deal needs parliamentary approval and may face additional scrutiny from the new government that’s set to take office next month.