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Several lawmakers in Bulgaria are demanding that the Defense Minister comment on reports that the criteria for the acquisition of new multirole fighter aircraft have been altered.
Recent reports have suggested the tender procedure now seeks to acquire "aircraft" instead of "multirole" aircraft and the matter has to be looked into, Miho Mihov, a retired general who heads the Defense Committee with Parliament, has told the Bulgarian National Radio.
Earlier, Defense News and Bulgarian daily Sega reported than amendments to the tender specifications had paved the way for used F-16 fighter jets to be acquired, after the issue of overhauling Bulgaria's outdated military aircraft fleet had been on the agenda for years.
Offers pitched by Eurofighter and Saab had often been mentioned as an alternative to buying the used F-16s, which, however, would turn out less costly.
There are fifteen offers from nine countries submitted to the Defense Ministry so far, Mihov has said.
Under requirements approved by Bulgaria's Parliament, the aircraft on demand must have at least half of its exploitation capacity to remain at least 20 to 25 years in service of the Bulgarian Air Force.
However, reports suggest that, under new tender criteria, the amount of weighed points allocated to the different offers according to the aircraft's service life has been reduced.
In Mihov's words, a company may have "lobbied" for the change of criteria.
"The fate of the Bulgarian Air Force will not be good in perspective if we indeed begin adjusting mathematical models to the interests of lobbyist circles."
Reportedly, the set of criteria were changed after the departure of Maj Gen Rumen Radev as commander of the Air Force in August.
Radev is now running for President, being endorsed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). He has been among the strongest voices in support of buying new fighter jets.