Bulgaria’s first F-16 Block 70 fighter will be completed by the end of 2024

Air Force of the Eastern European country agreed to acquire eight aircraft from Lockheed Martin, but has already made a second batch of eight fighters available

Lockheed Martin has revealed that seven of Bulgaria’s eight Block 70 F-16 fighter jets are in various stages of production at its Greenville, South Carolina facility.

The first fighter is expected to fly by the end of this year, the company said. The aircraft is equipped with a new AESA radar in addition to more modern avionics and more capable weapons systems.

The Bulgarian government closed the first order for combat aircraft in 2019 and is preparing to confirm eight more fighters.

Bulgarian Defense Minister Todor Tagarev visited the Lockheed Martin assembly line last week and saw the country’s first F-16 being assembled.

“Bulgaria is acquiring a proven, state-of-the-art fighter aircraft system that will deliver decades of 21st Century Security capabilities and NATO interoperability. We are proud that the most advanced F-16 ever produced will aid in Bulgaria’s national security,” said OJ Sanchez, vice president and general manager of the Integrated Fighter Group at Lockheed Martin.

Bulgarian authorities met the first F-16 fighter jets being assembled by Lockheed (Lockheed Martin)

Bulgaria will be the second European country to receive the F-16 Block 70 after Slovakia, whose first two fighters were delivered days ago.

The Bulgarian air force flies 13 Russian MiG-29 fighters in addition to seven Su-25 attack aircraft. In August 2023, the country signed a 9.5 million euro contract with Polish company Wojskowe Zakłady Lotnicze to overhaul six MiG engines.

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The aim is to keep the fighter fleet in service until the F-16s achieve operational combat capability.

Lockheed Martin currently has an order backlog of 135 jets for various air forces.