Bulgaria's navy is preparing to acquire two fully equipped multifunctional ships by 2022 in a deal estimated to cost about 820 million levs ($477.80 million), Defence Minister Nikolay Nenchev said on Thursday.
The Balkan country's government approved on Wednesday plans to buy new military equipment to improve its compliance with NATO standards and cut its reliance on Russian-made machinery.
"The Bulgarian Nava
l Forces will have two fully operational patrol ships within three and a half to six years," Nenchev said during a visit to the Black Sea city of Varna.
Nenchev said the cost for the two ships, which could be used for the defence of other vessels, oil platforms and convoys and have a helicopter on board, could be cut by about 30 percent if built in shipyards in Bulgaria.
In the early 2000s Sofia planned to buy four new corvette ships for its navy, but scrapped the plan due to financial constraints and instead bought two second-hand frigates from Belgium
Bulgaria, which in the Cold War era was part of the Moscow-led Warsaw Pact, joined NATO in 2004.
($1 = 1.7162 leva)
(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Gareth Jones)