SOFIA, March 13 (Reuters) - Bulgaria has received offers from Italy, Sweden and Portugal to supply eight new or secondhand fighter jets as the Balkan country seeks to replace its ageing Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighters, the Defence Ministry said on Monday.
Bulgaria plans to spend about 1.5 billion levs ($820 million) to buy new aircraft to improve compliance with NATO standards while reducing reliance on Russian-made aircraft.
A special working group will choose between new Gripen jets from Sweden’s SAAB and secondhand U.S. F-16 from Portugal, equipped with U.S. weaponry. Another option is to buy secondhand Eurofighter Typhoon fighters from Italy.
“Offers from Portugal with a logistical package from the United States, Sweden and Italy have been opened at the Defence Ministry,” the ministry said in a statement.
Bulgaria’s parliament approved a plan in June to get eight new or secondhand fighter jets between 2018-2020. Some funds for the deal have been set aside in the 2017 budget.
After the working group examines offers by the end of the month, talks with be held with the preferred bidder to prepare a contract, a source familiar with the process said.
“It is not likely that a deal is to be approved before a new government is formed after general elections on March 26”, the source said.
$1 = 1.8326 leva Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Edmund Blair