Bulgaria may be interested in buying the FC-1 Xiaolong or JF-17 Thunder, a multirole fighter designed jointly by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, according to military analyst Gareth Jennings in an article for the UK-based Jane’s Defence Weekly.
The Bulgarian air force is looking for a new fighter to replace its obsolete MiG-29 Fulcrum and Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot, purchased from the Soviet Union. The Bulgarian government originally planned to buy a fighter from the US or Europe or commit to a further MiG-29 upgrade. However, the price of a new US fighter such as the Lockheed Martin Block 52 F-16 is estimated to cost around US$282 million. Jennings concluded that the price is almost certainly unaffordable for Bulgaria.
Secondhand jets, including surplus Block 25 F-16s from the US Air National Guard, F-16 midlife upgrade aircraft from Belgium, early tranche Eurofighter Typhoons from the Italian Air Force and surplus Saab Gripens from Sweden, are the options left for the Bulgarian air force to purchase from Europe and the US.
|JF-17 Xiaolong Fighter|
Pakistan is considering the sale of the single-seater single-engined Xiaolong (as it is known in China) or Thunder (as it is known in Pakistan) to Bulgaria as an alternative, Jennings said.
China and Pakistan have been pushing for the introduction of their jointly developed fighter to various countries including Argentina, Serbia and Saudi Arabia. However, Beijing and Islamabad have been unable to secure a single buyer for the fighter. The price of a brand new Xiaolong is approximately US$30 million, which is only half of the price of the other alternatives.
Bulgaria’s membership of NATO may hold it back from opting for the Xiaolong, however, said Jennings.