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The first machines of the eight F-16 aircraft for the Bulgarian Air Force are being produced, but the delivery date remains 2025. This was said by the head of Business Development for Bulgaria at Lockheed Martin Jonathan Lin in an interview with BNR.

He is also in charge of the F-16 program.

"Bulgarian F-16s are on the production line at our plant in Greenville, California. At the moment, under the F-16 production program, next year we expect the first fighters to go out to make the first test flights. We expect this to happen at the beginning of 2023. And then we will actually see the first F-16 block 70 flying. They will not be the Bulgarian machines that are expected. But even the very fact that we can already say that these machines will leave the production line line and will be doing their test flights is enough progress. We have no problems producing the F-16 Block 70," said Jonathan Lin.

There will be no Bulgarian pilots at the first tests, because that is the procedure.

Washington: The sale of 8 F-16 fighters to Bulgaria will strengthen its security

"The way the contract works also determines the procedure. Your contract is between two governments. Therefore, our company's job is to test the fighters and hand them over to the American government. Then the American government will work with Bulgaria. But the good thing about the whole thing is, that you also already have one pilot who has passed the pilot training stage. A second who is entering the training program. Three more will follow. So we are seeing quite a lot of activity from your pilots preparing to fly the future F-16s." .

The date of 2025 remains for the delivery of the first machines.

"The deal made through the United States government and with the Bulgarian side is 2025. That's the year you're going to get these fighters. That date has not been changed. We understand that the delivery delay is because of what happened because of Covid and other things. But we plan to honor the agreement we have. And that's 2025."

For the next eight F-16s, there is talk of a time delay for the answer that Bulgaria has to give on whether it would buy eight more fighters.

"In July, we sent a letter to the Bulgarian authorities and made this proposal. The deadline for an answer is November 1st. But we are also working on extending the deadline so that they can study the proposal. We also understand the position of the current government in the process. But there is proposal to sign".

According to Jonathan Lin, the date of November 1st can be extended, but all questions about the contract can only be given by the American Embassy

"We are working with the American government and the Bulgarian government. But this "point in time" depends on the American government. The contract is between the governments. And therefore I cannot comment. Already at the time when this document was provided to your country, the Minister of the defense has pointed things out to you. But we are continuing the talks in Bulgaria with the government and the ministry so that the process can continue."

When asked about the already paid over two billion leva for the first eight fighter jets and an announced price of 2.97 billion leva for the second, which critics say is a hell of a lot of money, Jonathan Lin says that this is a price given by the American government :

"Your Secretary of Defense has indicated some time ago how much the new bid will cost. But this is a contract between two governments, and this is the price that the American government has given. As for the price, you should know that even if it is, it has many additional things that go into it, and it's not all about Lockheed Martin. In a deal like this, you're not just dealing with the company, with the US government, but with many more manufacturers that are part of this agreement and the process".

Regarding the political situation in Bulgaria, which is not in favor of making any decisions about the new aircraft, due to the lack of a regular parliament, Jonathan Lynn says:

Representatives of "Lockheed Martin" are on a working visit to VVVU "Georgi Benkovski"

"I am neither a political analyst nor a geopolitician to be able to comment on this matter. But I can say that if you receive the next eight fighters, you will already have a squadron with which you can operate. For the Bulgarian Air Force, it is important to has this full set of fighters.Your pilots will go through this necessary training process.

In Bulgaria, we have a wonderful project with the Air Force Academy.

There we train the people who will teach the future pilots.

We provide specialists.

This project is progressing well.

And our desire is that Bulgaria be able to maintain and operate these military aircraft naturally within the sovereign airspace".

And is there a possibility of cooperation on the programs in which your company participates and for the exploration of Mars?

"I can only talk about fighter jets. I'm not an expert on space projects. But if Bulgaria wants to be part of something, the best way is to ask," says Jonathan Lin.

F-16 fighter jets

Lockheed Martin