Bulgaria's ministry of defence has selected the Alenia C-27J tactical transport aircraft to replace its Antonov An-26s after evaluating the Italian aircraft against the EADS Casa C-295.

The Bulgarian air force is seeking eight C-27Js to be based at the 16th Transport air squadron base in Sofia, from where its five surviving An-26s are operated alongside an An-30, eight Let L-410UVP/UVP-Es and one Pilatus PC-12M.

The An-26 is inadequate for Bulgaria to fulfil its duties as a member of NATO because the twin-turboprop has to make three technical stops to reach Iraq, where Bulgarian troops are deployed. An An-26 recently had to make a belly landing due to landing-gear failure.

Bulgarian air force commander Gen Dimitar Georgiev says he expects Alenia to deliver the first two aircraft next year and two more in 2007, while the acquisition of the four remaining Spartans will depend on Bulgaria's ability to fund the purchase.

The initial contract is expected to be worth around €200 million ($259 million). Bulgaria has 11 military procurement projects under way, valued at nearly €800 million.

Alenia has 17 C-27Js at various stages of construction, including 12 ordered by Greece, of which two are completed and undergoing testing, and five of the 12 ordered by the Italian air force.


Source: Flight International