“The F-16 fighter jets are equipped with full armament. Bulgaria will have the most advanced aircraft,” said James Robinson, International Business Development Manager, F-16, Lockheed Martin, during a briefing on Tuesday, August 6th, 2019. He pointed out that the aircraft would be equipped with enough air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles.
“The fighter jets are fully operationally compatible with the NATO systems. You can mount anything you like on an F-16,” he stated.
The US Embassy to Bulgaria was positive that the contract would enhance the cooperation between Bulgaria and the US and that the transaction would be done in a fully transparent way. The Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States of America Justin Friedman pointed out that Bulgaria enters into a strategic partnership with the United States and becomes even more reliable partner of NATO and other member countries.
Also, a military plant for repairs will be made by Lockheed Martin and Avionams, was said at the press conference. The nationalized in 2016 Avionams plant will repair F-16 fighters as part of a deal in which Bulgaria bought 8 new fighters for BGN 2.2 billion. Lockheed Martin aircraft manufacturer will assist Avionams with line equipment and personnel training to help the Bulgarian plant maintain the aircraft’s electrical and hydraulic systems as well as the chariot. Avionams will be able to serve not only our fighters, but all F-16s of the countries in the region, he explained. The construction of the plant on the territory of Avionams, which does not currently have an aircraft repair license, is part of industrial cooperation in the purchase of fighter jets. Lockheed Martin will also develop a joint project with BAS and Bulgarian companies for the production of Bulgarian drones. However, it is not specified which Bulgarian company will participate in this project.
Main elements of the F-16 Program for Bulgaria
- The repair and maintenance of the aircrafts will be in Bulgaria, it became clear from the words of Jim Robinson from Lockheed Martin at a press conference. This will include electrical components, avionics and weapons, and this can be done at the Avionams military plant. There will be opportunity Bulgarian industry and academia to develop drones. The Air Force School will work to train military pilots. The program is expected to include not only equipment but also training programs, development of new simulators. Until now, the manufacturer didn’t give details about industrial cooperation.
- F-16 Block 70 has 12,000 flying hours and the US company is committed to training Bulgarian machine maintenance specialists.
- The price for the next F-16 fighter order will be lower because the pilots are already trained, explained the F-16 manufacturer.
- The US embassy recalled to the critics who say the US are using the bases for free and suggesting that some of the planes be given away for free that about USD 300 million has been invested in training programs, construction and infrastructure repair over the past 25 years.