The US F-16V fighter will be sold to Bulgaria for up to 165 million USD/unit, including full armament.
The purchase of a full weapons package for the life of the F-16V can be equal to the price of the latest generation fighter. After a vote on November 4, the Bulgarian parliament approved the purchase of eight more F-16V fighters manufactured by the US corporation Lockheed Martin. Accordingly, Bulgaria will pay an additional 1.32 billion USD to buy 4 single-seat F-16V and 4 two-seat aircraft. The package includes both weapons and equipment. These fighters are expected to be delivered in 2027.
Bulgaria paid $1.67 billion for the first batch of 8 F-16V fighters with weapons and training, initially scheduled to be delivered in 2023. (equivalent to $ 208 million each). However, the delivery was delayed and acting Defense Minister Dimitar Stoyanov said the fighters may not be delivered to Bulgaria before 2025. Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004, looking to replace its aging Soviet-era MiG-29 fleet.
The Bulgarian Air Force is operating 11 MiG-29UB fighters, of which two are for training purposes. After the conflict in Ukraine broke out, Bulgaria could not buy spare parts and engines for MiG-29 fighters from Russia. Therefore, the country wants to accelerate the purchase of F-16V from the US. The F-16 Block 70/72 fighter jet, also known as the F-16V Viper. This is the most powerful version of the current US F-16 Fighting Falcon light fighter.
The new F-16 due to the application of many new technologies, so their cost is also quite high, each aircraft is estimated to cost 70-80 million USD depending on the number of orders. If you include full armament and training packages, the cost is even higher. The difference in the design of the F-16 Block 70/72 version can be easily seen in the extra fuel tanks along the fuselage, helping to increase the combat range, which is an inherent weakness of the F-16.
The combat radius of previous versions was only about 550 km, but now thanks to the auxiliary tanks they can be increased to 1,250 km. Increasing the combat radius is of great significance in fierce high-intensity wars. The US began attaching the first auxiliary fuel tank to the F-16 Block 50/52 Plus version. When necessary, the F-16 Block 70/72 can quickly remove the auxiliary fuel tanks to achieve high rate of climb, as well as maximum top speeds.
The new F-16 is equipped with a comprehensively and extensively upgraded avionics system, using technology from 5th generation fighters. The cockpit is completely new designed with many screens displaying flight parameters to help pilots more convenient in combat. The F-16V uses Northrop Grumman AN/APG-80 advanced active electronically scanned array radar to increase its ability to detect and control fire to destroy the enemy.
In terms of armament, although the F-16V has only a single engine, it can carry up to 7.9 tons of weapons, roughly equivalent to 8 tons on Russia’s Su-30/35 heavy fighter. Block 70/72 can be equipped with all existing US weapons, including tactical nuclear bombs.
Despite its remarkable power, the operating cost of this fighter is only around $20,000 per flight hour, which is nearly half lower than the Russian Su-30/35. The fuselage life of this latest version is approximately 9,000 flight hours. That is 3 times more than Russian fighters. The F-16 is America’s most successful fighter, with about 5,000 aircraft, and service in 24 countries. Although no longer produced for the air force, the US is still producing this aircraft to sell to its allies.