SOFIA (Reuters) – NATO newcomer Bulgaria signed a 91-million-euro ($108.8-million) deal yesterday with Alenia Aeronautica, a unit of Italy’s Finmeccanica, to buy five military transport planes, the Defense Ministry said. The deal is part of Bulgaria’s efforts to overhaul its former Soviet-allied armed forces to meet NATO standards after joining the alliance two years ago. «The planes will enable our air force to carry out important tasks in the alliance,» Defense Minister Veselin Bliznakov said after the signing. Bliznakov said the first plane would be delivered in August next year, and Bulgaria would receive a plane a year until 2011. Under the deal Alenia will invest 223 million euros in direct and indirect offset programs to build a new hangar for the planes, supply spare parts, train pilots and help exports of Bulgarian military and software products. «I hope that inside the big group of Finmeccanica, Alenia’s ability to supply products and services from both military and civil sides will be useful to develop further business,» said Alenia Aeronautica CEO Giovanni Bertolone. Bertolone said the C-27J Spartan airlifter, developed in collaboration with US defence major Lockheed Martin, has already been ordered by Greek and Italian air forces, and the firm was looking for a very important contract in the US.