Pakistan plans to offer JF-17 Thunder to overhaul Bulgaria's ageing fighter aircraft fleet

World Defense & Security News - Pakistan & Bulgaria
Pakistan plans to offer JF-17 Thunder to overhaul Bulgaria's ageing fighter aircraft fleet
Pakistan is to make its own proposal to Bulgaria concerning the overhaul of its aircraft fleet, media reports suggest. Currently the US, Italy and Sweden have been bidding to answer Bulgaria's need to have a squadron of 16 fighter jets replacing the existing one which is made up of Russian-made outdated MiG-21s. Islamabad's offer is to include JF-17s, multirole 4++ generation fighters which it has been producing jointly with China since 2007, according to daily Presa.

Pakistan home-made JF-17 fighter aircraft
JF-17's engine is Chinese-made, but is constructed under Russian license and resembles that of MiG-29. The Pakistani vehicle is however considered to be more advanced, since MiG-29s are 4-generation aircraft.

The first prototype of the JF-17 was launched in May 2003, and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and China's Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group have been jointly producing the fighter jet since 2007.

Should the Bulgarian government decide to acquire the JF-17, the country would become the aircraft's first foreign operator.

The aircraft is enabled with a service ceiling of 55,500 feet and a maximum speed of 700 knots, according to data released by Pakistan Aeronautical Complex.

Bulgaria has been seeking for a few years to update its aircraft fleet, with various governments in a row failing to take any decision.

Out of 15 offers submitted to Bulgaria's Defense Ministry, a total of 3 have been shortlisted, coming from Italy (offering Eurofighters), Sweden (Gripen) and the US (F-16).

The US option, F-16 fighters from Tucson, Arizona, includes aircraft that have already been removed from service. However, the author notes that even though the vehicles would virtually be a "gift", the need for thorough repairs would generate higher costs for the buyers than if new jets are acquired.

Sweden's proposal to sell Gripen aircraft is the only one involving new vehicles which are to be delivered two years on from sealing a contract. According to Presa's report, within this stretch of time, Sofia could be granted used Gripen fighters for training. Various officials are backing the idea of buying newly-built fighters, including Air Force Commander Maj Gen Rumen Radev and his predecessor Miho Mihov (also ex-Chief of Defense, currently an MP heading Parliament's Defense Committee).