Bulgaria to buy 8 new F-16s from US

Bulgaria to buy 8 new F-16s from US
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The government of Bulgaria on Wednesday approved a plan to purchase eight new U.S.-manufactured F-16 fighter jets in a bid to bring the country's air force up to NATO standards.

The Associated Press reported that Bulgaria's deputy defense minister announced Wednesday that Lockheed Martin had beaten out two European manufacturers to secure a contract with the government worth $1.25 billion, with an option for the U.S. Congress to contribute $60 million to the deal.

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Plans to buy the jets must still be approved by the country's parliament, but passage is likely due to the ruling government's majority coalition in the legislature.

The bulk of Bulgaria's fighter jets are Soviet-manufactured Mig-29 jets, which the AP reports have been targeted for replacement for years. Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004.

Bulgarian deputy defense minister Atanas Zapryanov reportedly confirmed Wednesday that the deal includes pilot training, ammunition and other equipment necessary for the jets.

News of the sale comes just months after a plan for the U.S. to sell new F-35 aircraft to Turkey was put on hold due to concerns from the U.S. military about Russian-manufactured defense systems which Turkey has also purchased.

“Without a change in Turkish policy, we will continue to work closely with our Turkish ally on winding down their participation in the F-35 program. This disengagement plan is completely reversible if Turkey chooses to forego delivery of the S-400,” Lt. Col. Mike Andrews said in June.

Defense officials have vowed that no country that purchases Russian missile defense systems will be allowed to purchase the F-35, America's newest fighter jet design.

“While we seek to maintain our valued relationship, Turkey will not receive the F-35 if Turkey takes delivery of the S-400,” acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanOvernight Defense: US shoots down Iranian drone | Pentagon sending 500 more troops to Saudi Arabia | Trump mulls Turkey sanctions | Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract Pentagon sending 500 more troops to Saudi Arabia: reports The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet MORE said in June.