Bulgaria downsizes army to free cash for air force

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgaria's defense minister has announced job cuts in the army to free funds for the modernization of the armed forces.

Angel Naydenov said Monday that the army will be downsized by 1,300 servicemen by the end of this year and called the purchase of new combat aircraft "the most urgent task" which should have government approval by mid-year.

Bulgaria has long wanted to replace its old Russian-built aircraft and bring its air force in line with NATO standards, but postponed the plans because of reduced defense budgets. The minister did not specify what type of aircraft will be bought.

Bulgaria abolished military conscription and turned its army into a fully professional force in 2008. It has currently a 37,000-strong army.

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