WARSAW, Poland — Bulgarian lawmakers have voted to approve the purchase of eight F-16C/D Block 70 fighter jets for the country’s Air Force. The forthcoming acquisition is to be worth close to $1.3 billion.

The National Assembly, the country’s unicameral parliament, approved the planned purchase by a majority of 162 votes, with 49 members voting against, and 11 abstentions.

Under the plan, the first batch of eight F-16 that Bulgaria has already ordered is to be supplied to the country’s Air Force in 2025. The second batch of eight fighter jets is expected to be delivered in 2027, Bulgarian Defence Minister Dimitar Stoyanov said in a statement.

The minister said that the first F-16 deal from 2019 lacked sufficient weapons, air-to-ground missiles, and precision weapons for the aircraft.

“Under the second contract, the plan is to have additional spare engines, additional radar stations, additional containers for targeting, and additional weapons delivered,” Stoyanov said.

The minister added that Bulgaria’s military would not be able to protect the country’s airspace after 2023 when its outdated Soviet-designed Mikoyan MiG 29 fighters are to be withdrawn from service.

“The first eight F-16 Block 70 fighter jets that will arrive in 2025 are grossly insufficient to carry combat air policing duty,” according to Stoyanov.

With this air power gap in mind, the ministry last month disclosed it had requested fighter jet lease offers from four countries to secure its air-combat capabilities until the first eight American F-16s become operational in 2027 or 2028. Bulgaria’s caretaker government seeks to evaluate offers from the United States, France, Sweden and Israel. At the time of the announcement, the minister said that France and Sweden had submitted their replies.

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

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