WASHINGTON — Bulgarian President Rumen Radev vetoed a $1.26 billion deal to buy eight new Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets on Tuesday, according to a Reuters report.
The veto follows a debate in parliament on Friday that revealed divisions on the contract terms.
“The commitment of Republic of Bulgaria to obligations, for years to come, without a national consensus and conviction in the mutually acceptable conditions of the treaty, is extremely worrying,” Radev said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Bulgaria has been working to acquire fighter jets since 2017 to replace its outdated Soviet-era Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter jets. They have considered buying secondhand F-16s from Portugal, Eurofighter Typhoons from Italy and Saab JAS Gripens from Sweden.
Negotiations heated up in May after it looked like Bulgaria would walk away from buying F-16s in exchange for either Typhoons or Gripens. But in June, the U.S. State Department approved the $1.67 billion sale, putting the American aircraft back in the running for a deal with Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian Council of Ministers then followed up by approving four draft agreements for the eight F-16s for a total of almost $1.3 billion in July. However, the agreement had to be approved by the Bulgarian parliament and U.S. Congress.
It’s now unclear what the NATO member will seek to replace its MiG-29 fleet.
Kelsey Reichmann is a general assignment editorial fellow supporting Defense News, Fifth Domain, C4ISRNET and Federal Times. She attended California State University.