WARSAW, Poland — Bulgaria’s Council of Ministers has approved four draft agreements with the United States for a total of almost $1.3 billion to acquire eight F-16 Block-70 fighter jets and related equipment from Lockheed Martin.
Before the final agreements are signed, they must be approved by the Bulgarian parliament and the U.S. Congress.
Bulgarian Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov said the cabinet hoped that U.S. lawmakers could reduce the final price by about $60 million, as reported by local daily Dnes.
Of the eight aircraft, six fighter jets are to be supplied in a one-seat variant, and two aircraft in a two-seat variant. Deliveries are scheduled to be completed by 2023. The Bulgarian Air Force plans to replace its outdated Soviet-designed Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter jets with the F-16s.
In May, Karakachanov said the government could end its negotiations with the United States and instead turn to Sweden or Italy to purchase new aircraft due to a disagreement over the price. As part of the country’s tender to acquire new combat aircraft, Italy offered the Eurofighter Typhoon, and Sweden the Saab JAS-39 Gripen.
The acquisition is to mark Bulgaria’s largest foreign defense contract since 1989.
“Lockheed Martin welcomes the Bulgarian cabinet’s decision to accept the Letter of Acceptance from the U.S. government for eight F-16 Block 70 aircraft, the most advanced version of this benchmark NATO fighter available today," Lockheed Martin said in a statement. "This is another important milestone along the path to procuring the F-16 Block 70, which will be supported by a long-term program of partnership between the U.S., Bulgaria, Lockheed Martin, and Bulgarian industry and academia.”
Valerie Insinna in Washington contributed to this article.