Bulgaria's defence ministry has approached the governments of France, Germany, Sweden and the USA with a request for information about the possible purchase of eight new or used multi-role fighters.
Intended to initially supplement and later replace the Bulgarian air force's 12 RSK MiG-29A fighters and two MiG-29UB trainers, the new fleet could be increased to total 20 aircraft after 2014, according to Sofia's new armed forces development plan.
Types included within the requests for information include the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16C/D and Saab Gripen. Sofia has not requested information from Moscow on the MiG-29M/M2.
Sources suggest that Bulgaria has asked about the possible availability of secondhand fighters, such as the Dassault Mirage 2000 and Panavia Tornado.
Responses to the requests for information are due in late March, with defence minister Anyu Angelov suggesting that a winner should be selected by mid-2012. Deliveries of new aircraft could start within another 30-36 months, or from around 18 months if a secondhand model is selected.
Bulgaria in 2006 outlined a requirement for 16 new-build fighters, but did not advance further than receiving initial feedback from several companies.
The NATO member's last MiG-21s will be retired at the end of this year, with its Su-25K/UBKs to follow suit during 2012. Operations with its air force MiG-29s are expected to continue until 2020.