USAF F‑16s to Police Bulgaria’s Skies for NATO

 In U.S. Air Force, CEE, Russia, Air, Ukraine, Forces & Capabilities, NATO

For the next four weeks, USAF Airmen and F‑16s and Bulgarian air force fight­er air­craft will fly NATO air patrols over Bulgaria to pro­tect the nation’s air­space, improve the Air Force’s inter­op­er­abil­i­ty with its coun­ter­parts there, and serve as a show “of Allied solidarity,” NATO and USAF announced Sept. 28. 

“Approximately 140 per­son­nel and six F‑16s from the 555th Fighter Squadron deployed in sup­port of the Allied mis­sion along with var­i­ous units from Aviano Air Base, Italy, and Airmen assigned to the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing, Ramstein Air Base, Germany,” a 31st Fighter Wing release stated.

The par­tic­i­pat­ing F‑16s will serve as a quick-response force for air­craft who fall into dis­tress or defy inter­na­tion­al flying rules and advance toward NATO nations’ sov­er­eign air­space, a NATO Allied Air Command release about the mis­sion explained. This task­ing is part of the alliance’s increased “air polic­ing mea­sures in the region,” which it imple­ment­ed in reac­tion to Russian activ­i­ty in Ukraine, includ­ing the annex­a­tion of Crimea, NATO noted.

“Six Canadian F‑18 jets are also oper­at­ing in the region under the NATO mis­sion, from neigh­bour­ing Romania,” the NATO release stated.

Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, will also serve as home base for the American F‑16s taking part in the air-polic­ing mis­sion, the NATO Allied Air Command release noted.

The 31st Fighter Wing and Ramstein Air Base’s 435th Air Ground Operations Wing pre­vi­ous­ly sent Airmen — and 555th Fighter Squadron F‑16s — to the base from Sept. 18 – 25 for Thracian Viper 20. The mul­ti­lat­er­al train­ing exer­cise helped the Triple Nickel squadron prac­tice agile, in-the­ater deploy­ments, as well as to devel­op local pro­ce­dures for F‑16 oper­a­tions at Graf Ignatievo, Maj. Rohan Naldrett-Jays, the squadron’s chief of stan­dard­iza­tions and eval­u­a­tion, told Air Force Magazine on Sept. 24. 

“The Triple Nickel’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in NATO enhanced Air Policing allows us to demon­strate com­pre­hen­sive deter­rence and defense through joint and com­bined inter­op­er­abil­i­ty,” said 555th Fighter Squadron Director of Operations Lt. Col. Brian Lewis said in the 31st Fighter Wing release. “Mission sets like these not only rein­force the capa­bil­i­ty, capac­i­ty, and readi­ness of the Alliance, but gen­er­ate an appre­ci­a­tion for allied and part­ner con­tri­bu­tions. Operating togeth­er is cru­cial to our effec­tive­ness.”

Air Force Magazine source|articles

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