President Radev Reacts Strongly to Proposal to Select F-16 Fighter Jets

President Radev Reacts Strongly to Proposal to Select F-16 Fighter Jets

December 22 (BTA) - Speaking on "Darik Radio" Saturday, President Rumen Radev described the proposal to select the F-16 fighter jet as a triumph of lobbyism. His comments came in response to Friday's announcement by an interinstitutional commission that a proposal will be made to select the US fighter jets for the Bulgarian Air Force's needs.

The President said that the proposal for Bulgaria to select the F-16 fighters is the culmination of autocracy this year. "This was a triumph of lobbyism. I do not wish to defend one or another type of aircraft, as I find all three to be great. I have flown on and against them. But, unlike others, I uphold the idea that the process must be transparent, open and objective," Radev told "Darik". He was chief of the Bulgarian Air Force prior to becoming President.

Late on Friday, Deputy Defence Minister Atanas Zapryanov told a news briefing that the Economy and Defence ministers are proposing in a report, submitted to the Council of Ministers, that the National Assembly tasks Cabinet with the preparation of an international agreement and the conduct of negotiations with the US Government for the acquisition of a new type of fighter aircraft. The report further proposes that Parliament allows the draft international agreement to deviate from the mandatory requirements set in the Updated Investment Expenditure Project for the Acquisition of a New Type of Combat Aircraft, approved by Parliament in June, in the event of its subsequent ratification.

Answering a question late on Friday, Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov said that the US legislation is such that part of the information cannot be provided before a selection has been made and government-to-government direct negotiations have started.

"The whole information concerning the questions we are asking, including about getting a better price, can be achieved only via direct negotiations between the two governments," he said.

"Given the situation, we have two options - to stop the project and start from scratch and lose at least a year and a half, or to start direct negotiations with the objective of getting a better price, all necessary parameters and to offer a contract," Karakachanov further said.

The acquisition of a new type of multirole fighter aircraft, such as the US-made F-16V Block 70, equipped with the latest generation of radar and armament, will bring to a new quality level the Bulgarian Air Force's combat capabilities. Meanwhile, Bulgaria will not be dependent on third countries during the planes' operation and life-cycle management. The motives behind this proposal are in line with foreign policy interests and Bulgaria's national security, the two ministers' report said, which is based on another report by an political military group and on the work of the joint working group.

Air Force Chief Gen. Tsanko Stoykov, who also chairs the joint working group, said that the rules were clear, the group was being objective, unbiased and striving to be as accurate as possible when examining the three offers.

According to the proposal, the ministers of Defence, Economy, Foreign Affairs and Finance must be part of the negotiating team when the project is being drafted by the Bulgarian side. MY

Source: Sofia