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Bulgaria Will Not Ground Its MiG-29s until 2028, Defence Minister Says

Bulgaria will not ground its MiG-29s until 2028, caretaker Defence Minister Atanas Zapryanov said here on Friday. He explained that most countries that have acquired F-16s continue to use MiG-29s as well.

Zapryanov addressed Parliament during Question Time, answering a question from Rumen Gechev MP of BSP for Bulgaria about a public procurement launched by the Defence Ministry for overhaul and re-conditioning of six MiG-29 engines.

According to the Programme for the Development of the Defence Capabilities of the Bulgaria Armed Forces until 2032, the MiG-29s are to remain in service until 2028, until the new F-16 reach full operational readiness, the Defence Minister specified.

“Considering that the delivery of the new fighters will start in 2025 and the reaching of full operational capabilities requires at least three years’ extra time for training the pilot personnel; additional funding has been planned for the maintenance of the MiG-29 engines until 2028,” Zapryanov said. 

In order to ensure the operation of MiG-29s and Su-25, a little over BGN 13 million are envisaged in the Defence Ministry’s single financing plan for overhaul of the MiG-29 engines.

The Defence Minister said further that all-Bulgarian air policing requires not fewer than 1,600 flight hours, whereas the pilots on combat duty have over 35 flight hours monthly. “Pilots need to log far more flight hours, for the time being we have limited them to air policing missions,” Zaopryanov said.

On April 15, he said in a TV interview that he expects Bulgaria to have eight F-16s and 14 trained pilots for them by the end of 2025, as agreed with the US. Seven of the Bulgarian aircraft are already on the assembly line, which means that three of them will be completed by the end of 2024. Until March 2025, they will remain in the US to be used to train two more pilots and 84 technicians. Three more jet fighters will be delivered to Bulgaria in the second quarter of 2025, and the remaining two will be available by the end of next year.