Following a letter of intent signed by Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev and his Polish counterpart, Tomasz Siemoniak, under which six of Bulgaria's Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter jets will be modernized and serviced by Polish state-run plants, the aircraft's manufacturer, RSK MiG, has sent a letter of protest to the Bulgarian Parliament's Defense Committee,
In the letter, the Russian manufacturer warned Sofia against performing aircraft maintenance activities in Poland, as RSK MiG claims that Polish defense companies are not officially authorized to repair MiG fighter jets.
Nenchev has responded to the claim by saying that Poland's offer was "two times lower" than what Sofia was offered by Russia. By signing a contract with Polish defense companies, Bulgaria will save up to 24 million leva (US $14 million), Nenchev said.
The latest conflict reveals that Bulgarian politicians are split over the country's dependency on Russian-designed weapons and military gear, which the incumbent government says it wants to reduce.
Retired Gen. Miho Mihov, who currently serves as an MP and heads the parliament's Defense Committee, said that while Bulgaria needs to urgently acquire new fighter jets, in addition to its MiGs, it should not break its ties with the "Russian military-industrial complex" despite the country's NATO membership.
Mihov also said that Bulgaria's MiG-29s should be serviced by Russia, and not Poland. Prior to entering politics, the general served as the chief of the General Staff of the Bulgarian armed forces.
The upgrade is to be performed by two state-owned plants, WZL 2 Bydgoszcz and WZL 4 Warsaw. The companies are part of the Polish Armaments Group.
Sofia aims to raise its defense expenditure from the current 1.3 percent of gross domestic product to 2 percent by 2024. The Bulgarian government approved its draft program to modernize and expand the capabilities of the armed forces, under which 20 percent of the country's military spending is to be allocated to acquisitions of new gear.