Washington Offers F/A-18E/F Super Hornet to Bulgaria
07 Apr 2006
The US Government has officially offered the purchase of new F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter aircraft to the Republic of Bulgaria, this being the first time that Washington has offered this fighter abroad. The US proposal that contains three possible options for supply of Bulgarian armed forces with F/A-18E/F was sent by Washington in early March 2006 and is in fact response to a request for price and availability information received from Sofia in June 2005 for 16 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets fighters.
In addition to the Super Hornets, Bulgarian Ministry of Defence also requested price and availability information for 12 used F-5 jet fighters that were seen as the most suitable solutions for familiarization of Bulgarian Air Force personnel for use of Western-made fighter jet technology.
According to US Navy Commander Andrew Hartigan, the first supply option is tailored to the number and type of aircraft mentioned in the Bulgarian letter of request. The second option envisages the supply of 12 US Navy used F/A-18E/Fs and as many used F-5s. The third option features no F-5s. Although, Commander Hartigan refused to reveal the price at which the fighter jets are being marketed to the Bulgarian side, the unofficial sources quote the price of a brand-new unarmed F/A-18E/F fighter at around USD54 millions.
If Bulgaria accepts the recent offer from Washington, it will become the second country after the US using this type of aircraft. The US offer envisages contract signature in 2007 with the first delivery as soon as 2009. Boeing did not reveal prices for the offer as these are the subject of negotiations between the US and the Bulgarian government. However, it is known that the company is ready to offer an offset programme.
In accordance with the 2004 defence modernization plan, Bulgaria recently signed a USD48 million contract with Russian RSK-MiG for overhaul, service life extension and limited modernization of 16 MiG-29 (14 MiG-29A Product 9.12A and four MiG-29UB) fighters. The same plan, however, features the purchase of 18 new fighters. According to the latest public statements by the Bulgarian Minister of Defence, Veselin Bliznakov, the tender for purchase of new Western-made fighters will be announced in two or three years. Already interested to participate in this tender are Lockheed Martin with F-16C/D Block 52+ Fighting Falcon and Saab with an offer for JAS 39 Gripen. The Bulgarian Ministry of Defence predicted the cost of the project for supply of new fighters to reach around USD1 billion.
Report by Igor Bozinovski