Analysis: best jets, helicopters for bulgarian armed forces

Bulgaria new aircraft helicopters
Italian Air Force T-346A advanced jet trainer.

Bulgaria is currently under the main modernization process of its armed forces. According to the plan released by the Bulgarian MoD in 2017, the country plans to increase the defense spending to 2% of the gross domestic product until 2024. Following the release of the document, the nation began to look for a new combat aircraft to replace the MiG-29 and Su-25 fleets, but the Soviet-era fighters are not the only obsolete platforms of the Bulgarian Air Force (BAF).

Recently, the Bulgarian government launched a plan to replace the An-30 reconnaissance plane and soon the L-39 jet trainers will also have to be retired. Currently the BAF has remained in service 6 L-39ZAs of the 37 initially purchased. Considering the nation's limited budget, the best solution would be to replace the L-39 and Su-25 jets with just one type such as the new Leonardo's M-346FA (Fighter Aircraft). This option would allow the nation to reduce the number of aircraft and cover two roles with the same platform resulting in significant savings in operating costs. In addition, Bulgaria has already purchased the C-27J cargo plane from Leonardo and this would allow an optimization of service-related relationships. Leonardo also offered to Sofia second-hand Eurofighters to replace the MiG-29s.

Over the next few years, the BAF Air Force will also have to withdraw its Mi-17 and Mi-24 helicopters and the Bulgarian government could negotiate a huge overall package with the Italian company to obtain more benefits. Italy's options could include second-hand Mangusta attack helicopters and AW101 medium-lift helicopters. Leonardo is one of the few aerospace companies in Europe with a large aircraft portfolio.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Image: Italian Air Force

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