President Radev: Fighter Jet Selection Procedure Has Been Mishandled

January 6 (BTA) - The procedure for acquiring fighter
jets for the Bulgarian Air Force has been mishandled, President
Rumen Radev told the media on Sunday.

Discussing the government's apparent preference for F-16
aircraft, Radev, who is also Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the
Armed Forces and former Air Force commander, said: "I insisted
on observing the procedural rules and the financial framework,
which would ensure the best choice, regardless of the type of
the aircraft. The government did just the opposite: it
proclaimed a winner, contrary to its own rules and the rules set
 by the National Assembly, and even agreed to pay a huge
additional sum of money."

Shortly before Christmas, Defence Minister Krassimir
Karakachanov and Economy Minister Emil Karanikolov unveiled a
report which is due to be considered by the Council of
Ministers. The report recommends that the Council of Ministers
should propose to the National Assembly to authorize the
purchase of newly built F-16 jets manufactured by Lockheed
Martin Corporation of the United States. The report also
suggests that the Council of Ministers should ask the National
Assembly to allow a possible "deviation" from the Bulgarian
requirements in the future contract.

The President went on to say: "The selection of aircraft trough
this procedure is a triple blow to Bulgaria. You may recall the
populist statements that we were not buying fighter jets because
 we needed money for pensions. But still, there is not enough
money for pensions, and now we are going to pay much more for
far fewer airplanes. This is also a blow to the trust of our
European partners as they have been used by the government as
mere 'extras' in the bidding procedure. Also, this is a blow to
our American partners because, in the eyes of the Bulgarians,
they are set to win the bidding through political lobbyism and
against the rules."

Radev exclaimed: "How can we win the respect of Europe and the
world if we do not respect our own laws and rules?"

The President was speaking to journalists after a traditional
Epiphany water blessing ceremony of the military colours and the
 sacred flags of the Bulgarian Armed Forces. RY/VE

Source: Sofia