Bulgarian Parliament Approved Purchase of Fighter F-16V Block 70
January 16, 2019
Bulgaria's parliament approved the government's plan to start talks with the United States on the purchase of eight new F-16 fighter jets in order to replace the country's aging, Soviet-made MiG-29 and to move closer to the standards set by the NATO.
Some 130 lawmakers voted in favour of the plan of the centre-right government, led by Prime Minister Boyko Borissov while 84 deputies were against it, accusing the cabinet of breaching the tender rules.
The deal for Lockheed Martin's F-16V Block 70, worth $ 1.0 billion, is the largest armament program for Bulgaria since the fall of the Communist regime nearly 30 years ago.
Sofia also considered the possibility of buying Gripen jets from Sweden or used Eurofighters from Italy. Defence Minister Krassimir Karakatsanov, who admitted that the US proposal exceeded the initial budget by 300 million leva, said the negotiations would last about four months and are expected to begin next month in Brussels.
The US Embassy in Sofia, in a statement, welcomed today's parliamentary decision. "We are looking forward to continuing to strengthen our strategic partnership with our ally in NATO, Bulgaria," he said in the statement.
F-16V Block 70 incudes Northrop Grumman’s advanced APG-83 AESA radar that delivers greater situational awareness, flexibility and quicker all-weather targeting. The APG-83 provides pilots with unprecedented target area detail and digital map displays that can be tailored with slew and zoom features. The APG-83 provides F-16s with 5th Generation fighter radar capabilities by leveraging hardware and software commonality with F-22 and F-35 AESA radars.
Another key feature of the F-16 Block 70 configuration is the new Centre Pedestal Display (CPD), which provides critical tactical imagery to pilots on a high-resolution 6”x 8” screen. The high-resolution display allows pilots to take full advantage of AESA and targeting pod data. The new CPD enables colour moving maps, larger and easier to manage air-to-air Situation Displays, zoom functionality with the ability to switch information among displays, and a digital display of Flight Instrument Data. The CPD is also compatible with the Night Vision Imaging System.
The Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS) was purpose-built to prevent deadly crashes and has already saved the lives of seven pilots and six F-16s since the system entered service with the U.S. Air Force in late 2014. The Auto GCAS is designed to reduce incidents of what is known as controlled flight into terrain, or CFIT. According to U.S. Air Force statistics, CFIT incidents account for 26 percent of aircraft losses and a staggering 75 percent of all F-16 pilot fatalities.
The F-16 Auto GCAS system is currently being integrated into the U.S. Air Force’s F-16 fleet and the Air Force and Lockheed Martin plan to develop similar systems for the F-22 and F-35. Current plans call for fielding an Auto GCAS on the F-35 by 2019. The F-35 Joint Program Office estimates the Auto GCAS will prevent more than 26 ground collisions during the service of the F-35 fleet.