US Focuses More on Incentives to Export Arms to Allies
WASHINGTON – U.S. officials point to the recent sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Bulgaria as a first success in their efforts to export U.S. weapons to countries caught in a major power competition between the U.S., Russia and China.
The sale, which was on hold earlier this summer because Bulgaria estimated the price to be nearly $ 1.7 billion as too high, was ultimately successful because the US government offered the plane as part of foreign military funding with a $ 60 million grant, according to R. Clarke Cooper, US Department of State deputy secretary for political affairs. -military.
The Bulgarian government had previously viewed Saab’s Gripen jet as a competing option.
The move follows a new policy by the Trump administration to draw countries still using Soviet-era equipment into the United States’ sphere of influence through long-term arms deals.
According to Cooper, Bulgarian officials identified that the F-16, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, had a preferred option early on, but came up against a price the country could not afford.
“How can they get the cells they want without breaking the budget of their entire Defense Department?” Cooper said Bulgarian officials, speaking to Defense News on Wednesday. at the defense press conference.
Part of the final deal, in the spring of this year, included a discussion of designing an aircraft package that would meet both capacity and cost standards. “We had to be frank with the Bulgarians about their demands,” Cooper said.
The emphasis on grants and loans to grease the wheels of similar sales should be a key part of the Trump administration’s arms export policy. To this end, the State Department is planning an FMF budget of $ 8 billion and pushing through a number of administrative changes to facilitate future exports.
Speed is a key factor in these reforms, with officials seeking to ensure that bureaucratic steps are simultaneous and are now carried out sequentially.
“It’s a constant competition,” Cooper said, referring to the global arms market. “If we don’t get ahead of our opponents, the void will be filled. “
Sebastian Sprenger is Associate Editor for Europe at Defense News, which covers the state of the defense market in the region, as well as US-Europe cooperation and multinational investments in defense and security. global. Previously, he was the editor of Defense News.