Bulgaria's government to buy 8 new F-16s from US

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgaria's government has decided to buy eight new F-16 fighters in a bid to replace its aging Soviet-built jets and bring its air force in line with NATO standards.

The government gave the go-head Wednesday for the defense minister to sign the contract for the purchase of eight multi-role F-16 Block 70 fighter aircraft.

Deputy defense minister Atanas Zapryanov told reporters that the $1.25 billion deal includes the aircraft, ammunition, equipment and pilot training, and that there is an option for the U.S. Congress to contribute $60 million. He said that six single-seat and two two-seat F-16s would be delivered by 2023.

The decision still needs parliamentary approval, but it is expected to get that easily given that the ruling coalition has a majority.

Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004.