Bulgaria’s Air Security at Stake: Discover Why

The Bulgarian Air Force is now utilizing civilian aviation for airspace surveillance, due to budget limitations. The current means offer an incomplete coverage of Bulgarian territory, raising security concerns, especially over the Black Sea region.

Priority for Air Surveillance

The capital city of Bulgaria, Sofia, is now giving more significance to the improvement of air surveillance capabilities. To achieve this, a program to attain seven 3D surveillance radars has been initiated. The program, which is budgeted at 200 million euros, also aims to maximize the capabilities of F-16 Viper aircrafts.

Tender Participation and Result

The tender has seen the response from five out of eight industrialists invited; including (), Lockheed-Martin (US), Leonardo (), Elta Systems (Israel), and Indra (Spain). Notably, Saab, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems chose not to respond. After examining the offers, Thales was selected by the Bulgarian Ministry of for the next phase of the program.

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Thales’ Radar: GM400 Alpha

The radar model likely to be chosen is the GM400 Alpha. This particular model in the GM400 series boasts superior range, processing power and AI algorithms. Thales claims that the GM400 Alpha has the highest update rate in the market for all surveillance missions.

Future Prospects

Bulgaria's Minister of Defense, Todor Tagarev, expresses hope for prompt negotiations and a parliamentary approval of the investment expenditure project. Interestingly, a 25% lower price was secured during the procedure. If the agreement with Thales fails, there is a chance for negotiations with the runner-up participant.

Political developments could affect the program, however. Following Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov's resignation on March 5, there is a possibility of European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel succeeding. This casts uncertainty on the future of Todor Tagarev as Defense Minister, and his potential successor might reconsider the radar purchase. If the procedure concludes successfully though, Thales is contracted to deliver the radars within three years from the signing of the contract.

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