Put an immediate end to the repairs and maintenance of the Bulgarian MiG29 jets in Russia!

Thursday, 15 March 2018

 

POSITION

of the Atlantic Council of Bulgaria

on the Bulgarian Government Intention to award to Russia
the maintenance and repair of 15 Bulgarian
Airforce MiG-29 Fighter Aircraft

15 March 2018

 

 

 

The Atlantic Council of Bulgaria (ACB) follows with deep concern the measures undertaken by the Minister of Defense to award to Russia the repair and maintenance of the obsolete Bulgarian fighter aircraft MiG-29, still in service from the times of the Warsaw Pact. On 07.03.2018 the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence published on its public procurement portal new documents for this procurement procedure, titled “Integrated logistics support of the aircraft MiG-29 – framework agreement” (http://pp.mod.bg/MO-DOA-2017-068). The documents make it clear that the Ministry of Defence is preparing to pay the Russian company aircraft maker RSK MiG between approximately BGN 41.1 million and 81.5 million, VAT excluded, for the repair and maintenance during the next four years of 15 or those aircraft.

This same procedure has been already initiated once in 2017 by a ministerial decision 129/06.12.2017, but it was challenged.

The newly published document package makes it clear that on 15 and 16 February, negotiations have taken place between the Ministry of Defence and the company RSK MiG. Based on these negotiations, the minister of defence, with his decision No 28/06.03.2018, definitively named the RSK MiG as the company to be awarded the contract. The decision is subject to appeal within 10 days.

It is important to make clear that, with his decision of 06.03.2018 the defense minister in fact starts a new procedure, separate from that which has been challenged by December 2017.

Our anxiety grew significantly after carefully reading the framework agreement and the accompanying documents, especially considering the following arrangements:

 

  1. Subject of the agreement (Chapter 2)
  • The draft framework agreement (FA) provides for the payment of a fee for integrated logistic support (ILS) of 6250 Euro for a flight hour, i.e. above 9 million for 1450 hours, and almost double the fee over these hours. From the text it is understood that the enormous fee for flying hours are paid solely for verification and calibration of instrumentation, related to the operation of the aircraft (point 2.3.1.6). All other activities referred to in point 2.3 of the draft FA, being included in that price, as referred to in point 2.4, we are obligated to pay again, at a price set by the RSK MiG.
  • The Commission preparing the documents have changed the meaning of the requirements 2.3.2.1 of the FA, titled “Planned and unplanned supplies of spare parts for the aircraft and consumables”. Apparently it is done with the purpose of avoiding the chance to include in the price for one flying hour the aggregates and parts with limited technical life, which apparently benefits the RSK MiG.
  • It must be stated that the MoD is obliged to pay to the RSK MiG millions of euros for nothing, and will further pay other millions for the maintenance of the continuing airworthiness of the aircraft.
  1. Time and place of execution of the agreement (Chapter 3)

The draft FA leaves RSK MiG to determine what are the time limits and deadlines for the execution of the activities under the contract, regardless of the priorities of the Bulgarian MoD. Leaving the FA without fixed deadlines for the execution, particularly the recovery of airworthiness of 12 combat and 3 training aircraft, allows the Russian side to manipulate Bulgaria as per the Russian interests and to influence directly how many  ready aircraft Bulgaria will have at its disposal.

  1. The Prices (Chapter 7)

There is no negotiated price for restoring airworthiness of the 15 aircraft, despite that RSK MiG had carried out a preliminary technical assessment of their condition. At the same time, the Bulgarian side requests unit costs for a major overhaul and increase of the lifespan of some aggregates of the aircraft, and for the supply of spare parts and consumables in 2018 (annexes 14, 15, 16 and 17), while these items are not included in the draft FA. This will allow the RSK MiG to change the proposed prices, citing circumstances beyond the control of the MoD.

  1. Penalties (chapter 17)

There is no provision of penalties for failure of RSK MiG to meet its primary obligation to ensure a minimum of 1450 flying hours per airframe per year, with 66.6% airworthy aircraft. Moreover, this is exclusively in the interest of the company and will allow RSK MiG to claim undeserved payment on smaller flight duration.

These and other controversial clauses render the FA non-practical and will inevitably lead to its termination after a serious loss of funds and without the desired result to be achieved.

In addition, many of the texts and the changes in the course of the procedure leave serious doubts about hidden arrangements between the two sides.

The Minister of Defense is from a coalition party in the GERB government, but the ultimate responsibility for the implementation of the defence policy is vested in the Council of Ministers.

Therefore we call upon the Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to find the proper way to execute his governance functions and responsibilities for the modernization of the Bulgarian armed forces.

It is worth noting also that the estimated total value of the contracts under this FA will not exceed the approximate sum of BGN 41.1 million, excluding VAT (8.7). And as per the Bulgarian law (art. 26, al. 31 (a) of the law on defence and the armed forces), the Minister of Defense can decide investment or modernization programmes and projects for armament, machinery and equipment for the needs of the armed forces, when the value of each of the projects does not exceed BGN 50 million.

Therefore, the Minister of defence is authorized to sign contracts at values not exceeding BGN 50 million, without having to seek approval of the Council of Ministers or the Parliament (the Parliament consent is required for contracts above BGN 100 million). This is probably the reason behind fixing the whole value of the contracts to be divided into two parts – the minimum and the maximum, allowing the defense minister to act at his own discretion and by his own unchecked judgment.

 The Atlantic Council of Bulgaria is worried by the revanchist and provocative policy of the Kremlin, waging hybrid war against NATO and the EU, including against Bulgaria. In its strategic documents Moscow has already announced NATO de facto an enemy. Already for many years, the Russian air force provocations near our air space lead to a depletion of the limited resources of our currently available fighter aircraft.

 To continue to repair and maintain our weapon platforms in Russia in this situation is unreasonable and dangerous to our national security.

We recall also the suspected flight safety deficiencies caused by the incomplete set of documents delivered with the previous repair of MiG-29 (for more than BGN 70 million) that caused tension among Bulgarian fighter pilots in October 2017.

The Bulgarian government must realize and consider carefully all of this especially in the current context of the aggressive policy of the Kremlin against NATO and the EU.

Unfortunately, with its revenge policy the Kremlin is becoming increasingly unreliable partner on the international scene and established itself as a major factor of instability in Europe, especially on the eastern borders of the EU and NATO. In this context, there are no reasonable grounds to expect that Moscow can be a loyal and reliable partner to any business relations in the military-industrial field, too. Even lesser in the maintenance of a critical military equipment of Bulgaria, used for the executing its commitments in the NATO Alliance.

ACB calls for immediate cancelation of the procedure for finalizing of this framework agreement with Russia.

We urge the Government to seek opportunities to repair and maintain the minimum required number of aircraft MiG-29 to be made by a State that is either an ally of NATO, or has stated its desire for a membership in the Alliance.

At the same time the Government as soon as possible must start the procedure for the acquisition of a new type of NATO interoperable fighter aircraft.

ACB considers that in parallel with the introduction of the new aircraft, the release of the old MiG-29 must be implemented, so that there is no parallel operation of the new and the old aircraft. The Government must seek the best option to divest/sell the old MiG-29.

ACB insists and that the Government finds options for a shared / joined air policing with allied countries, within the framework of the NATO integrated air defence and missile defense system.

 

ACB will continue to closely monitor and provide expert support to all institutional efforts to strengthen the defence potential, the role and the prestige of our country in NATO and in the European defence.

 

ATLANTIC COUNCIL OF BULGARIA

National and International Security Program

 

Categorised in: