On 17 November, Deputy Minister of Defense Mr. Dimitar Kyumyurdzhiev and the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO Policy Mr. James Townsend conducted bilateral working group meetings in the Ministry of Defense. The delegation led by Mr. Townsend included representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, United States European Command, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the United States Air Force and the US Embassy in Sofia.
The visit’s purpose was to enhance the bilateral cooperation and strategic dialogue in the defense and security field as was declared during the visit of John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, in January this year. The meetings were also conducted as part of the regular political-military consultations in accordance with the 28 April 2006 Agreement between the Republic of Bulgaria and the United States of America for cooperation in the field of defense (DCA). The discussions comprised issues of mutual interest related to deepening cooperation both bilaterally and within NATO. An emphasis was put on the results achieved from the work of the interagency Defense and Security Working Group, the future of the European Reassurance Initiative, Operation Atlantic Resolve, adaptation measures to NATO Readiness Action Plan, possibilities for conducting joint air policing, opportunities for building contemporary defense capabilities, and the Naval cooperation in the Black Sea.
In a closed session of the Council of Ministers, held today, October 7th, Defence Minister Nikolay Nenchev submitted for consideration and approval a draft of a Government-to-Government Agreement on the supply of logistic support for MiG-29 aircraft in the Republic of Poland. The Government approved the draft and gave a mandate to Minister Nenchev to enter into the Government-to-Government Agreement with Poland.
For the purpose of preparing the above agreement, the Ministry of Defence carried out a preliminary market research to examine the potential within the EU and NATO for provision of integrated logistics support for MiG-29 aircraft. The market research established that Poland was the only country into the above scope to have capabilities to maintain and overhaul MiG-29 aircraft.
The proposed draft Agreement aims to ensure the airworthiness of MiG-29 aircraft, providing for arrangements for repair of six engines, as well as for temporary use of two engines property of Poland for a period of two years.
The agreed repair price amounts to EUR 1,023,000 per engine and the transportation costs will be borne by the Polish Party. The first two Polish engines will be delivered within 20 days as of the date of entry into force of the Agreement.
The document also details the manner of settlement of disputes between the two Parties to the Agreement, as well as the overhaul quality assurance, responsibility for which will be borne by the Polish state.
Upon signature by Minister Nenchev, the Council of Ministers will submit the Agreement for ratification by the National Assembly.
The preparatory actions as regards entering into an Agreement on MiG-29-related repairs with the Republic of Poland commenced in February 2015 after a visit to Poland by a Bulgarian delegation led by Minister Nenchev, which presented a first opportunity to discuss the possibilities to enhance the military and technical cooperation between the two NATO Member States. In the course of the negotiations with the Polish Party, an Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Government of the Republic of Poland on Military Cooperation and a Letter of Intent between the Minister of National Defence of the Republic of Poland and the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Bulgaria concerning Cooperation in Armaments Area. The above documents were signed on the 28th of August 2015 during the official visit to Bulgaria by Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of National Defence Tomasz Siemoniak.
Over the course of several months, a draft of a Government-to-Government Agreement on the supply of logistic support for MiG-29 aircraft was elaborated. In early October, a working group from Bulgaria visited the Republic of Poland to finalise the text of the provisions of the Government-to-Government Agreement.
The Ministry of Defence has commenced coordination procedure with regard to a draft Bill on the Amendment and Supplement of the Republic of Bulgaria Defence and Armed Forces Act (DAFA) which will permit Allied aircraft, jointly with the Bulgarian Air Force, to carry out tasks related to the preservation of the integrity of Bulgarian airspace (Air Policing). Upon successful completion of the coordination procedure with regard to the draft Bill on the Amendment and Supplement of DAFA, the latter will be moved to the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria for consideration, and subsequently moved to the National Assembly for approval. The changes are so devised as to preclude any option that Air Policing be undertaken solely by forces and assets of foreign countries. The said changes guarantee that no Bulgarian sovereignty will be ceded to other countries.
The changes were necessitated by several reasons, all related to the need for enhancing the Air Policing capabilities of the countries across NATO’s Eastern Flank, including those of Bulgaria. At the Wales Summit in 2014, the Heads of State and Government of the Member States of the Alliance advised that there was a need to conduct a joint mission to enhance the Air Policing capabilities of the countries across NATO’s Eastern Flank. Such mission has been ongoing in the Baltic States since 2013, but it was augmented as a result of the Assurance Measures taken to guarantee the security of NATO’s Member States. Romania also heeded the Alliance’s recommendations and allied forces have been deployed in its territory since mid-2015. Bulgaria alone continues to carry out its duties related to the joint protection of NATO’s airspace – NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS) – on its own. The conduct of a joint Bulgarian Air Policing mission together with other NATO Member States is part of the assurance measures envisaged by NATO’s Readiness Action Plan with regard to guaranteeing the air sovereignty of the countries from the Alliance’s Eastern Flank. The measures include presence, on a rotational basis, of NATO’s forces and assets to be employed in joint exercises and trainings and enhancement of the existing national capabilities, aiming to improve the Allies’ interoperability and to demonstrate allied resolve, solidarity and mutual commitment to collective defence.
The decision will help Bulgaria’s combat aviation, contributing both in terms of improved capabilities, airmen’s training, and in terms of equipment. Thus, we will not allow any weakening of our capability to guarantee Bulgaria’s and NATO’s air sovereignty.
Today the Council of Ministers decided to introduce a proposal to the National Assembly to adopt the Programme for the Development of the Defence Capabilities of the Bulgarian Armed Forces 2020. This is a cornerstone document for the implementation of the defence policy of the state. It fills the vacuum left after the expiration of the previous strategic document – The White Paper on Defence and the Armed Forces 2014. The Programme sets out the core parameters and guidelines for the development of the Armed Forces until 2020 which fully comply with the political agenda of the Government Programme and the outlined in it priorities, measures and goals for the defence sector.
The adoption of the Programme for the Development of the Defence Capabilities of the Bulgarian Armed Forces 2020demonstrates the ambition of the Government and the Ministry of Defence to implement the goals marked out during the NATO Wales Summit and the recommendations of the Consultative Council on National Security under the President from April, 2015.
The Programme proposes assessment of the security environment in view of the recent developments in regional and global aspect. It also outlines the threats to the Republic of Bulgaria. Important elements of the Programme are the improvement of the functioning of the Bulgarian Armed Forces command and control system and the establishment of Special Operation Forces apart from the personnel of the Land Forces. The Document stipulates the size of the Armed Forces and the Reserve.
An advantage of the Programme is that the prescribed resource parameters are realistic and guarantee the functioning of the system. The relative share of the defence budget in GDP until 2018 is preserved at a level not lower than the achieved in the 2014 State Budget Act and will grow until 2024 in favourable economic situation.
The Programme also envisages restructuring of defence spending until 2024 to the proportion of 60:20:20 (costs of human resources, current subsistence rates and capital expenditure). This reflects the average rates for EU states while the achievement of capital expenditure of 20% is compliant with the Wales Summit Declaration. Based on the provisions of the Programme, a Plan for the Development of the Armed Forces will be drafted coordinating all operational and tactical plans of the Armed Forces.
The basic stage of the joint multinational training “Steadfast Lev 15” has started. It is conducted in the period 27 March 2015 – 30 April 2015 at Novo Selo training range with the participation of units from the armed forces of Bulgaria, USA and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
111 servicemen from 42nd mechanized battalion of the 2nd mechanized brigade with 12 piece of equipment will participate in the exercise from the Bulgarian side. The US units with 132 servicemen and 17 pieces of equipment are from 2nd squadron of 2nd armored regiment and from BRAVO company of 2nd battalion from 7th infantry regiment of the 3rd infantry division. 36 servicemen from Viking Company of 1st Royal Regiment of UK participate in the exercise as well.
In the course of the whole exercise, the servicemen will improve their skills of planning and management in conducting multinational operations which will result in achieving better interoperability between the participating units.
The deputy commander of 2nd mechanized brigade, Colonel Nedyalko Ninov, declared at the opening ceremony, “ We start the joint preparation “Steadfast lev 15” in which servicemen from Bulgaria, USA and UK will increase their military skills . It is an exceptionally good opportunity for us all. Here, we will work on improving our interoperability in order to achieve such a level of synchronization at which we will be able to function jointly. I am convinced that your motivation is to give us your personal contribution to security and stability, required for the prosperity of our countries.”