Bulgarian Air Force Back in Joint Drills with US after MiG 29 IncidentDefense | April 28, 2012, Saturday // 13:40| views
Maj. Gen. Konstantin Popov, Commander-in-Chief of the Bulgarian Air Force. Photo by BGNES
The Bulgarian Air Force is now back in its largest joint training with the US Air Force ever, Thracian Star 2012, after it suspended its participation on Thursday when a Bulgarian MiG 29 fighter jet went down.
As of April 28, 2012, the Bulgarian military aviation is back in the Thracian Star drills with Su-25 planes, announced Saturday Maj. Gen. Konstantin Popov, Commander-in-Chief of the Bulgarian Air Force.
After Tuesday, the Bulgarian pilots will be back in the military exercises with the US Air Force with all planes they started the training with – MiG 21s and MiG 29s.
Gen. Popov said the decision was made together with Defense Minsiter Anyu Angelov; after the Bulgarian MiG 29 went down on Thursday, with the two pilots managing to bail out, Angelov announced the Bulgarian Air Force would hold off its flights in Thracian Star 2012, which lasts from April 19 till May 11, until the causes of the MiG 29 accident are established.
Gen. Popov also said the two Bulgarian pilots – Maj. Iliya Doychinov and Capt. Petar Metodiev – are still in the Military Medical Academy in Sofia with spine injuries.
"Every time something like that happens, the air force goes on, and there is no case that hasn't been overcome by the Bulgarian Air Force. This is also because all in this field are strong people," said the Commander-in-Chief of the Bulgarian Air Force.
The crash of the Bulgarian MiG 29, in which the two pilots survived by bailing out, while also managing to direct the fighter jet away from populated areas, led the Bulgarian authorities to cancel the VIP Visitors' Day at the Thracian Star 2012 drills that was supposed to be held on Friday, April 26, 2012, Gen. Angelov explained.
During the brief absence, as it has emerged, of the Bulgarian Air Force from the drills, the US Air Force continued its schedule training in Southern Bulgaria as part of Thracian Star 2012.
The Bulgarian MiG-29 aircraft plummeted into a river earlier on Thursday between the southern villages of Tsarimir and Golyam Chardak near Plovdiv.
The most likely cause of the MiG 29 crash was the catching on fire by one of the plane's engines; the incident is yet to be investigated by a group of military experts from the Bulgarian Air Force and Military Police.
Defense Minister Angelov noted on Thursday that Bulgaria is now left with 15 MiG 29s that will continue to be used to patrol the Bulgarian air space and to participate in NATO tasks.
On April 19, the air forces of the USA and Bulgaria started the most large-scale military aviation drills of their type entitled "Thracian Star 2012".
The drills at the Graf Ignatievo Air Base near the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv are conducted jointly by the Bulgarian Air Force, the Romanian Air Force, and the 31st Force Support Squadron stationed at the Aviano Air Base, a NATO Air Base under US Air Force administration in northeastern Italy.
Because of the large number of US F-16 fighter jets participating in the drills – two squadrons of 16 planes each – Bulgarian media have been quick to note that the Aviano Air Base has moved to Graf Ignatievo.
The Graf Ignatievo Air Base has already been used jointly by Bulgaria and the USA for seven years. Bulgaria, Romania, and the USA have boosted their military cooperation in the recent years under the so called Task Force East (formerly known as Joint Task Force East). According to the Bulgarian newspaper 24 Chasa daily, the Romanian Air Force is also taking part in the Thracian Spring drills.
The Thracian Star 2012 drills taking place between April 17 and May 11, 2012, feature Bulgarian Air Force MiG-29, MiG-21, Su-25, and Spartan C-27J planes; US Air Force F-16s, and Romanian Air Force MiG-21s
The drills are managed by Bulgarian Brigade General Rumen Radev, deputy commander of the Bulgarian Air Force.
The major goals of the drills were to improve the tactical interoperability of the US Air Force in Europe and the Bulgarian and Romanian military aviation.
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