U.S. Air Force F‑16s Begin NATO Air Policing Mission in Bulgaria
The U.S. Air Force began NATO air patrols using F‑16 Fighting Falcon aircraft fighter aircraft over Bulgaria on September 28.
The four-week long mission involves the deployment of six F‑16 Fighting Falcon aircraft to Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, which will fly alongside Bulgarian fighter aircraft.
The mission is part of NATO’s enhanced air policing measures in the region, introduced in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and destabilization of eastern Ukraine. In addition to ensuring the safety of Bulgaria’s skies, the joint patrols will improve the ability of Bulgarian and US pilots to work together. The mission is also a demonstration of Allied solidarity. Six Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CF-18 Hornet fighter jets are also operating in the region under the NATO mission, from neighboring Romania.
NATO air policing missions are designed to secure the airspace of Allies. The air policing jets will take to the skies at short notice when military or civilian aircraft are in distress or they do not follow international flight regulations and approach the sovereign airspace of NATO Allies.
Allies deployed fighter detachments to Bulgaria on NATO duty for the first time in September 2016, when American F‑15 fighter jets joined the Bulgarian Air Force for a similar mission. From July to October 2017, Italian Eurofighters conducted the mission in Bulgaria