The US State Department has approved a possible foreign military sale (FMS) of F-16 aircraft and associated equipment to Bulgaria. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has notified the US Congress regarding the potential $1.673bn sales.
The move comes after the Government of Bulgaria placed a request to purchase four F-16 C Block 70 aircraft and four F-16 D Block 70 aircraft.
According to a DSCA statement, the procurement package will also include 11 F100-GE-129D engines, 11 Improved Programmable Display Generators (iPDG), and 11 AN/APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Scalable Agile Beam Radars (SABR) and 11 Modular Mission Computers (MMC) 7000AH among others.
Bulgaria also requested 19 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) AIM-120C-7/C-8 or equivalent missiles; 48 LAU-129A launchers; 28 GBU-39/B Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs); 11 M61A1 Vulcan Cannons and four AN/AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods (ATPs).
The proposal also includes the delivery of missiles, radios, guidance units, ammunition, helmet-mounted displays, test and support equipment, and logistical support. Lockheed Martin will be the principal contractor for this possible sale. The procurement will enable Bulgarian Air Force to combat current and future threats and deploy the fighter jets for patrolling missions in the Black Sea region.
It will also increase the Bulgarian Air Force’s interoperability with Nato allies and enable it to participate in missions with other regional F-16 operators.
The DSCA statement said: “This proposed sale will support the US’s foreign policy and national security objectives by helping to improve the security of a Nato ally that is a force for political stability and economic progress in Europe.”
This February, the US State Department approved a potential FMS of 12 F-16 C Block 70 aircraft and four F-16 D Block 70 aircraft to Jordan.
Bulgari is one of the three NATO members that operate MIG-29s, which Ukraine pilots are capable of flying. The others are Poland and Slovakia.
But Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, who asked about the F-16 sale Monday, downplayed the suggestion it could be tied to Bulgaria providing MIG-29s to Ukraine.
F-16, also called Fighting Falcon, single-seat, single-engine jet fighter built by the General Dynamics Corporation (now part of the Lockheed Martin Corporation) for the United States and more than a dozen other countries.
The F-16 originated in an order placed in 1972 for a lightweight, cost-effective air-to-air fighter. Current models are also all-weather capable and practical for ground attacks as well. The US Air Force took its first delivery in 1978.
The F-16 is 49 feet (15 meters) long and has a wingspan of 31 feet (9.45 meters). It is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney or General Electric turbofan engine, which, after burning, can generate 23,000 to 29,000 pounds (102 to 130 kilonewtons) of thrust, accelerating the aircraft to more than one twice the speed of sound.
Weaponry includes a 20-mm rotary cannon and attachments under the wings and fuselage for many bombs and missiles. The F-16 weighs approximately 23,000 pounds (10,000 kg) with a typical combat load, less than half the weight of the previous-generation F-4 Phantom II.