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10:07 AM, July 22, 2019
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Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter (image: Rushabh P Bafna)

The Bulgarian parliament on Friday approved the purchase of 8 F-16 Block 70 fighter jets worth $1.25 Billion (2.1 billion Levs) by increasing the budget deficit to 2.1% of GDP besides axing several defense procurement projects.

The originally planned 2019 budget deficit was equivalent to 0.5% of GDP.

The net increase of $1.04 billion (1.83 billion Levs) will lift the budget deficit to $1.27 billion (2.23 billion Levs). The Balkan country has scrapped other $155 million (271 million Levs) worth military deals to accommodate costs of the F-16 contract, SeeNews reported Friday.

“Changes to the budget do not affect the government's borrowing plans. Bulgaria's fiscal reserve is at a good level and can handle the payment for the F-16 jets,” said Vladislav Goranov, finance minister, last week.

The government gave the nod to the long-pending deal for the procurement of 8 F-16 jets (6 single-seat and 2 two-seat fighters) to replace the ageing fleet of MiG-29 jets of the Bulgarian Air Force. The aircraft are scheduled to be delivered by 2023.

The agreement includes supply of munitions for the jets, Sidewinder AIM 9Х Block II missiles, and a multifunctional information distribution system joint tactical radio system (MIDS JTRS).

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