WARSAW — Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev has announced the Air Force likely will pull its 12 MiG-29 fighter jets out of service rather than proceed with what he called an "overpriced" maintenance and repair deal with Russia.

Nenchev told local daily Sega that signing an extended deal, until 2019, priced by the Russian side at some 80 million leva (US $46 million), would be to unfavorable to Bulgaria, and so as a result, he refused to sign the contract.

The proposed cost offered amount was triple three times higher than the actual value of such a contract, according to the minister.

The aircraft are currently serviced by Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG. That Bulgaria's current deal for maintenance and repair services is scheduled to expire in September. 2015. The minister said that he has considered been considering to following the process used by the in the step of the three Baltic states, which which do not own fighter jets, but instead cover the costs of NATO air policing missions over their territory.

Other considered options include the purchase of new fighter jets for the Bulgarian Air Force, he said. This January, Nenchev said he would discuss a potential procurement with the US government.

The country's Defense Ministry has shortlisted three offers to acquire new combat aircraft, for its military, which include a US bid of F-16s, which were withdrawn from service, the Eurofighter Typhoon, and Sweden's Gripen, local media reported in March.

When Bulgaria joined NATO in March 2004, Sofia vowed to replace six of its MiG-21 aircraft and acquire eight new fighters by 2016.

Email: jadamowski@defensenews.com

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

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