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In January 2005, former Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov signed a contract with European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) for twelve AS532AL Cougars for the Bulgarski Voenno Vzdushni Sili (BVVS, Bulgarian Air Force) and six AS565 Panthers for the Aviatzia na Balgarski Voenno Morski Flot (Bulgarian Navy), at a total price of euro 358 million.
Money issues and controversial supply contract provisions forced the Bulgarian government to renegotiate the deal with EADS. By August 2010, the Bulgarian Air Force received eleven Cougar helicopters and had paid 60% of the entire deal. The Bulgarian government decided to pay the original price for the Cougars and to renegotiate the deal for the Panthers.
In December 2010, the last Cougar was delivered to the Bulgarian Air Force. According to a statement of the Bulgarian Defense Ministry, the Bulgarian Air Force will use the helicopter for Combat Search and Rescue operations (CSAR). In June 2011, the Bulgarian government and EADS finally reached an agreement on the troubled Panther deal by cutting the deal in half.
In October 2011, the first of three Panthers (serial 901) was handed over to the Bulgarian Navy at naval helicopter base Chayka (near Varna). The other two helicopters (902 and 903) followed in October and November 2011. The Panthers replaced the ageing Mil Mi-14s. Unfortunately one Panther (902) ditched in the Black Sea on 9 June 2017, during exercise Black Sea 2017. Of the three crew members, the helicopter's commander did not survive the accident, while the other two people on board sustained light injuries. With the write-off of this Panther, the Bulgarian Navy only had two helicopters left.
On Wednesday 20 November 2019, an AS365N3 Dauphin, with taped-on temporary registration YR-AHX, arrived at Chayka. The future serial 905 as well as the Navy titles and roundels were taped off. On Friday 6 December 2019, the Dauphin was officially handed over to the Navy. It is reported that this specific helicopter was Norwegian privately owned and overhauled upon delivery to the Bulgarian Navy.
Because the Dauphin is a new sub-type for the Navy, the serial ends with an odd number. The "missing serial" 904 will not be used.
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