"The acquisition of the F-16V Block 70 fighter jets is not just a purchase, but a long-term partnership that enables the Bulgarian Air Force to successfully meet the new challenges in the sector." This is what Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said during his meeting with representatives of the American company Lockheed Martin, from which Bulgaria purchased the warplanes for our defense needs.
The focus of the conversation was the long-term cooperation that will be realized through the Industry Partnership Program. It is part of the fighter jets acquisition process and is governed by a contract between the Ministry of Economy and Lockheed Martin. Due to its clauses, for the first time this type of Western aircraft will be maintained and repaired in Bulgaria by our specialists. Jobs will also be created and a unique know-how will be introduced in our country in the areas of security and defense.
During the meeting between Prime Minister Borissov and Randy Howard, Director of F-16 Business Development, and Lisa Herman of the International Business Development for Central Europe at the company, it was noted that the F-16 is the most successful multi-purpose combat airplane for Bulgaria and it fully covers our country's defense needs as well as the needs for fulfilling its tasks within NATO. The modern fighter jet is in service in 28 countries around the world, including our neighbors Greece and Turkey.
Representatives of the US company pointed out to the Bulgarian Prime Minister that in Europe alone there are more than 700 F-16 aircraft, and in the world more than 4000 of the aircraft have been sold, making it the best-selling military fighter jet and the most used one in real military actions.
"Bulgaria is successfully fulfilling its commitment for defense investments agreed upon at the 2014 Summit in Wales," noted Prime Minister Borissov. He pointed out that since the beginning of 2018, we have been actively implementing the National Plan for Increasing the Defense Spending by 2024. "With the purchase of 8 F-16V Block 70 aircraft this year, this goal has already been achieved and by the end of 2019 defense spending is expected to exceed 3% of GDP," also said Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.
During the meeting, which was attended by the Minister of Finance Vladislav Goranov, it was also discussed that Bulgaria's industrial partnership with the US company will develop the talents in science and engineering activities in the sector. Lockheed Martin is also expected to provide our national Air Force Academy with modern training for pilots and mechanics through programs designed by the US Air Force. This will allow education of a whole new generation of pilots, which is one of the most important results of our partnership with the US company.