First Cougar Helicopter Delivered to Bulgaria
24 Aug 2006
In a ceremony at the 24th Air Force Base in Krumovo, Bulgaria, in the presence of several Bulgarian and French officials, Eurocopter handed over the first Cougar helicopter to base commander General Stefan Petrov. This initial delivery follows the signature in January 2005 of a contract with the Bulgarian armed forces for the acquisition of 12 Cougar AS 532 AL and six Panther AS 565 MB helicopters for a total of 360 million euros.
The contract is the first of its kind in Bulgaria, since the Bulgarian forces until now have operated only Russian helicopters. It is a direct result of the reforms undertaken when Bulgaria became a member of NATO in March 2004. The Eurocopter helicopters that will be operated by the Bulgarian forces are interoperable with those used by NATO forces in Europe, most of which are equipped with helicopters of the same type. It will therefore be possible to deploy them to external theatres within the context of NATO or UN missions.
Delivery of the 18 helicopters, which starts today, will continue over 6 years. The Cougars will be delivered between 2006 and 2009, and the Panthers between 2010 and 2011.
The Cougars, which are destined for the Bulgarian Air Force, will be used for tactical transport (8 aircraft) and combat SAR missions (4 aircraft). The AL version of the Cougar can also be equipped with cannons and rocket launchers. These helicopters will also be used for parapublic missions: fire-fighting, evacuation from flood zones, mountain rescue, etc.
The 6 Panthers for the Bulgarian Navy will be used for maritime surveillance, SAR, anti-submarine and anti-surface missions.