WARSAW, Poland — Bulgaria will request an offer from Boeing for its F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft as the country aims to select a new fighter jet by the end of July 2018, according to the country’s defense minister.

Krasimir Karakachanov told state-run radio broadcaster BNR that the Ministry of Defence is seeking the offer in addition to the three main competitors for the deal — Lockheed Martin’s F-16, Saab’s JAS 39 Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon. He said requests for proposals are expected to be sent to manufacturers this month.

Interest in the Super Hornet indicates that a new major competitor could join the Bulgarian tender, under which the country is aiming to replace its Soviet-designed Mikoyan MiG-29 aircraft with Western-made fighters. The planned contract is estimated to be worth some 1.5 billion levs (U.S. $890.9 million).

In late October, Karakachanov said the ministry will relaunch its tender to purchase eight aircraft after a special committee of the Bulgarian parliament released a report calling on the Cabinet to relaunch the tender. The move scrapped the recommendation of a ministerial expert group that ranked the Gripen as its top choice.

Following this, Bulgaria was to request new proposals from Portugal, which offered secondhand F-16s, and from Italy, which offered its Eurofighter Typhoons. Should the ministry decide to select the Super Hornet, the country would become the aircraft’s first operator in Eastern Europe.

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

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