NATO member Bulgaria has sent requests to companies in four European countries to supply 150 armored vehicles for its armed forces as it looks to upgrade its military and reduce its reliance on Russia.
The Defense Ministry on August 6 said it had called for offers on the $836 million tender from companies in Germany, Finland, France, and Switzerland.
The requests for bids, due by October 31, were sent to Germany's Artec, France's Nexter, Finland's Patria, and Swiss General Dynamics Land System-Mowag, it said.
Sofia plans to pick a winner by December 20.
The announcement comes a week after Bulgaria's government gave the final green light to a $1.67 billion package deal to purchase eight F-16 multirole jets from the United States -- the country's biggest military procurement since the fall of communism in the early 1990s.
The eight F-16 jets are expected to be delivered to Bulgaria in 2023 and 2024 to replace the Bulgarian Air Force's fleet of Soviet-built MiG-29s.
U.S. President Donald Trump has demanded that NATO member states increase defense spending, and NATO has encouraged Eastern European members to develop, buy, and operate new alliance equipment.
Bulgaria, like many other eastern NATO members that were once in the Soviet bloc, relies on Soviet- or Russian-made military jets and other equipment. Bulgaria's military is largely equipped with Soviet-made wheeled armored vehicles.
The Black Sea country, which is also a European Union member, has said it plans to raise its annual defense expenditures to 2 percent of the country's gross domestic product by 2024 -- the minimum level agreed by member states and demanded by Trump.