After lengthy negotiations, Bulgarian Defense Minister Anyu Angelov announced on Tuesday that an order for six Eurocopter AS565MB Panther naval helicopters has been reduced to three aircraft.
It took seven months to come to an agreement because Bulgaria and France were talking through a bank as an intermediary.
The original deal was signed in 2005 by Angelov’s predecessor, in times when there was still money to be spent in Bulgaria. The order was for 12 Cougar multi-role helicopters for the Bulgarian Air Force and six Panthers for the navy at a total cost of € 358 M.
In December 2010 the last Cougar arrived from France at Krumovo Air Base near Plovdiv but so far not a single flight hour has been logged, because the contract includes a clause that the aircraft can only be used after the total amount of money has been paid. Now, with three Panthers less to pay for, Bulgaria should be able to complete the deal, so that the Cougars can be used as intended: for combat search and rescue.
(Sources: Middle East & Balkans News; 18 August 2011)