Bulgaria fishes for fighter jet offers

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Bulgaria's defence ministry said Wednesday it had requested information from France, Germany, Sweden and the United States on the potential supply of new or used fighter jets for its air force.

The letters, sent in January, requested from the four countries "information on their capabilities for logistical support, equipment, training, financial schemes, exploitation period, etc," the ministry said in a statement.

"The request concerns the purchase of eight new or used multifunctional fighters," it added.

The ministry however noted that "at this stage there is no clarity on the financial parameters of the project."

No company names were mentioned in the statement but the newspaper Standart reported on Wednesday that Sofia was eyeing offers from major fighter jet producers like European defence giant EADS, Sweden's Gripen and US Lockheed Martin.

Sofia will develop the parameters of its investment project based on the information it receives from the four countries, before officially calling a tender for the fighters, expected at the beginning of 2012 at the earliest, according to the defence ministry.

The acquisition of new multipurpose fighters for Bulgaria's air force had so far been delayed due to severe financial constraints.

A 2007 US document leaked by WikiLeaks and cited by Bulgarian media on Wednesday revealed strong US pressure on Bulgaria not to acquire new fighters, but to purchase second-hand US F-16 or F-18 aircraft instead.

In case Bulgaria decided to acquire new combat aircraft, "US manufacturers will, of course, be in this hunt," the cable added.

© 2011 AFP

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