WARSAW — The Bulgarian Air Force is aiming to replace its aging fleet of Soviet-designed fighter jets with new aircraft in the next three to three-and-a-half years, said Bulgaria's Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev, as reported by local news agency Novinite.

The government commission, which was tasked with studying the available options, is expected to submit a report on the planned procurement by the end of this March, according to Nenchev.

The minister said the country's government is likely to sign a deal to acquire new multirole fighter jets by the end of this year. According to earlier reports, to date, the Bulgarian Defense Ministry has shortlisted three offers. These include the US F-16s, which were withdrawn from service; Sweden's Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The move is in line with the government's plan to decrease Bulgaria's dependency on Soviet- and Russian-made gear. When the country joined NATO in 2004, Sofia vowed to replace six of its Mikoyan MiG-21 fighters and purchase eight new aircraft by 2016.

The Bulgarian government is aiming to increase its military spending from the current 1.3 percent of its gross domestic product to 2 percent by 2024. Under the plan, 20 percent of Bulgaria's defense expenditure is to be allocated to acquisitions of new gear.

Email: jadamowski@defensenews.com

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

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