WARSAW — Pakistan plans to offer its PAC JF-17 Thunder fighter jets to Bulgaria under the country's tender to acquire 16 combat aircraft for its military.

The Bulgarian Air Force is aiming to replace its outdated Soviet-designed Mikoyan MiG-21 aircraft, reports local news agency Novinite.

To date, the country's Defense Ministry has shortlisted three offers, which include the US bid of F-16s, which were withdrawn from service, the Eurofighter Typhoon and Sweden's Gripen bid.

Earlier tThis year, Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolai Nenchev said he aimed to visit the US in the first quarter of 2015 to discuss the potential procurement.

The first prototype of the JF-17 was launched in May 2003, and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and China's Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group have been jointly producing the fighter jet since 2007.

Should the Bulgarian government decide to acquire the JF-17, the country would become the aircraft's first foreign operator.

The aircraft is enabled with a service ceiling of 55,500 feet and a maximum speed of 700 knots (1296 km/h), according to data released by Pakistan Aeronautical Complex.

The Islamabad-based manufacturer says that the fighter jet's glass cockpit and hands-on throttle and stick (HOTAS) controls reduce pilot workload, and it can be armed with beyond-visual-range active missiles with a range of between 70 to and 100 kilometers, and highly agile imaging infrared short-range missiles.

Email: jadamowski@defensenews.com

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

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