Earlier CNN reported that Bulgaria had expressed its willingness to donate MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.

Bulgaria has denied that it will give free MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine. Earlier CNN reported that Bulgaria had expressed its willingness to donate MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. Accordingly, there are only negotiations on the possibility of implementing the so-called “triangular deals”, to replace some of the available weapons with compatible ones from allied countries, without allowing loss of capabilities.

The Bulgarians announced: “The Ministry is engaged in successive talks on the so-called trilateral agreements, aimed at replacing some of the available armament with compatible systems provided by allied nations, but not creating circumstances in which capabilities are lost”. The Bulgarians want to modernize the armed forces and acquire relevant gap-fillers. The delivery of the latest F-16 Block 70s has been delayed until 2027, while the MiG-29s were expected to be operational until 2023.

Bulgaria theoretically keeps 14 MiG-29 airframes in service now, all of which are more than 3 decades old. Why theoretically? Realistically the availability level is 50% tops, and no more than 2 jets remain ready to fly at any given moment. The remainder of the fleet is being used as a source of spares. Due to the shortage of forces, it is reasonable for Bulgari to transfer aircraft or other equipment to Ukraine only after receiving the new aircraft. This is a gap-filling solution, but it may last for years.

Bulgaria has reached a final agreement on the purchase of eight more US F-16 fighter jets, in addition to another eight ordered in 2019. The first F-16s were expected to be delivered in 2023, however, it was delayed, and Bulgaria probably won’t receive the F-16 before 2025. The F-16 will replace Bulgaria’s Soviet-era MiG-29s. But until then Bulgaria will still have to work to maintain its fleet.

Thanks to its diverse combat capabilities and high mobility, with many upgrades over time, the MiG-29 has been one of the most popular fighters in the world over the past 40 years. The aerial battles in the sky over Ukraine saw the appearance of MiG-29 fighters on both sides. Although it cannot rival modern stealth fighters, nor is it the best fighter of its generation, the Ukrainian Air Force is still lobbying its allies to supply Kiev with more MiG-29 fighters. And most likely the Bulgarian MiG-29s will soon be sent to Ukraine after receiving new F-16s.

The MiG-29 has undergone many upgrades, especially in the Russian air force. The current version in service with the Russian Aerospace Forces today is the MiG-29SMT, which has overcome most of the weaknesses of its predecessor. MiG-29SMT has a length of 17.3m, a wingspan of 11.9m, a maximum speed of Mach 2, a ceiling of 17,500m. Compared to the original version, the weapon payload has increased from 3.5 tons to 4.5 tons with 7 weapon hard points. In order to improve the inherent weakness of the warning system, the SMT is equipped with the Zhuk ME radar, which allows it to detect targets from a distance of 120km, simultaneously lock 10 targets and choose to destroy 4 of them at the same time.

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