The act to ratify the deal for acquisition of F-16 and a relevant update of the national budget are published in the latest issue of the State Gazette which was put out Tuesday. The gazetting of the acts is newsworthy because of the objections of President Rumen Radev to the F-16 deal and speculations that he might veto the national budget update.
On July 23 President Radev vetoed a 2.1 billion leva worth of agreements with the US on the purchase of eight F-16 Block 70 fighter aircraft for the Bulgarian Air Force and the provision of related equipment and technical support. Parliament defeated the veto and approved without changes the deal two days later. After that expectations ran high that he would also veto an update of the national budget which allow the government to take out new debt to make payments for the F-16 deal.
The gazetting of the ratification act and the budget update paves the way for real steps for modernization of the Bulgarian Air Force, which has been in the pipeline for over a decade now.
The Chairman of the parliamentary Defence Committee, Konstantin Popov, who is a retired general and former chief of staff and Air Force commander, told journalists that the difficult part is yet to come. "The resources Bulgaria has have to be inventoried, the details of the training of pilots and supporting teams have to be sorted out and the necessary infrastructure determined - and from that point the work of the Defence Ministry will become extremely important."
In his opinion, from now on it is crucial to create structures which are engaged, directly and on a daily basis, in this process, which is considerable in terms of necessary financing, work to be done and implications for national security.
After the F-16 deal, Deputy Defence Chief Vice Admiral Emil Evtimov also expects to see contracts for the other two modernization projects - for the Navy and one for the Land Forces.