Leonardo has thrown its hat into the ring to meet Bulgaria’s future fighter requirement with a bid to provide the Eurofighter Typhoon. The response to Sofia’s latest request for proposal (RfP) is based around eight former Italian Air Force Tranche 1 F-2000 Typhoons to replace the country’s ageing MiG-29 fleet.
Italy and Leonardo submitted their offer to the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence on October 1 – the same day that the Swedish Defence Material Administration delivered a proposal to provide Bulgaria with new JAS 39C/D Gripen fighters.
The Italian offer also includes the option for the delivery of newly built aircraft as requested by Bulgaria. The proposal covers aircraft acquisition as well as training, three years in service support and weapons.
Lucio Valerio Cioffi, Leonardo’s Aircraft Division Managing Director, said: “I believe that Eurofighter Typhoon can provide a cost effective and attractive solution for Bulgaria, delivering every capability and performing every mission the Bulgarian Air Force needs. The Eurofighter has already demonstrated its outstanding capabilities while performing air policing activities in 2017 from Graf Ignatievo air force base. We are ready to support the Bulgarian Air Force with newly built aircraft or with the Tranche 1 Eurofighters of the Italian Air Force”.
Bulgaria currently entrusts the quick reaction alert (QRA) mission to a fleet of MiG-29s were delivered between June 1989 and September 1990. The 18 single-seaters and four dual-seaters went through a communication, navigation and identification upgrade plus a service-life extension between August 2006 and June 2009. Late last year the Bulgarian defence ministry announced that 15 aircraft were in active service, but only seven – including a two-seater – were kept serviceable. Are all operated by the 1/3 Iztrebitelna Avio Eskadrila (1/3 Fighter Aviation Squadron) at the 3. Iztrebitelna Aviobaza (IAB, 3rd Fighter Air Base) Graf Ignatievo.
A replacement is now urgently being sought under the two-phased Armed Forces Development Plan. The first phase, covering eight fighters, is budgeted at €768m, and led to an RFP being issued by the Bulgarian government on June 29; all submissions were to be received by October 1. The jets should be delivered 24 months after the contract signature. In 2020-21 a second phase will procure a further batch of eight fighters, after a similar selection process.