First F-16 for Bulgaria to Perform Maiden Flight This Year

Bulgaria is the second European country, after Slovakia, to receive the advanced F-16 Block 70.
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  • 06:55 AM, January 17, 2024
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First F-16 for Bulgaria to Perform Maiden Flight This Year
Bulgarian F-16 jet

The inaugural flight of Bulgaria's first F-16 Block 70 fighter jet is slated to take place later this year.

The progress of Bulgaria’s future F-16 fleet was inspected last week by Bulgarian Minister of Defence Todor Tagarev, Bulgarian Ambassador Georgi Panayotov, and Bulgarian Defence Chief Adm. Emil Eftimov during their visit to Lockheed Martin’s F-16 production facility in Greenville.

Currently, seven F-16s destined for Bulgaria are in various stages of production at the renowned Lockheed Martin facility. Bulgaria is set to become the second European country to receive the advanced F-16 Block 70, a testament to its commitment to modernize its air force and replace aging Soviet-era MiG-29 and Su-25 aircraft.

The delivery of F-16s to Bulgaria is particularly crucial for NATO's eastern flank, given Bulgaria's strategic location, being only 200 km from the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Last year, Bulgaria secured a $151.36 million contract with Lockheed Martin for eight F-16 Block 70 aircraft, solidifying its status as the second European nation to acquire these fighters. The contract includes the delivery of spare parts, weapons, and other systems critical to the operational efficiency of the fleet.

The procurement of these aircraft aligns with Bulgaria's strategic goal of replacing its aging fighter jets with 16 of Lockheed Martin’s F-16V multirole fighter jets. Furthermore, 32 Bulgarian pilots are set to undergo training in the United States, ensuring the nation's air force is well-prepared and proficient in handling F-16s.

The journey towards acquiring the F-16 Block 70s began on June 3, 2019, when the U.S. State Department approved the potential sale of eight such aircraft to Bulgaria. Following approval by the Bulgarian parliament and President Rumen Radev on July 26, 2019, the process gained momentum. Notably, in November 2022, Bulgaria approved the purchase of an additional eight F-16 Block 70 fighters, along with necessary spares and systems, with delivery expected in 2027.

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