Bulgaria will introduce its first NATO-standard multirole fighter by 2007-8, says Gen Nikola Kolev, chief of the country's armed forces' general staff. Earlier this year the Bulgarian air force launched a process to draw up its requirements for a new fighter and to study candidates that could meet a 2008 in-service date.

Bulgaria's finance and industry ministries are expected to issue a new set of requirements later this month, with their preference believed to be for acquiring new-build aircraft with an associated package of industrial offsets.

Industry sources suggest the new fighter requirement is for 12-20 aircraft. Earlier offers to supply second-hand fighters such as ex-Belgian air force Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BMs have been declined.

The procurement could be accelerated if a stalled $65 million RSK MiG/Thales service life extension and avionics modernisation for the air force's current MiG-29 fighters is abandoned. Bulgaria's remaining MiG-29s are scheduled for retirement from September 2005, with its last MiG-21s to follow from 2006.

Source: Flight International