Bulgaria and US join forces

Thracian Thunder was held from 06 January untill 25 March 2016, with Graf Ignatievo as main operating Air Base. Graf Ignatievo is located near the second-largest city in Bulgaria, called Plovdiv. It’s home for the 3 Iztrebitelna Aviacionna Basa (3.IAB), operating the Russian build MiG-29 Fulcrum. Next to these impressive aircraft also some Su-25 “Frogfoots” from 22 Shturmova Aviacionna Basa (22.ShtAB) were based in Graf Ignatievo due to upgrades and repairs at their home-base of Bezmer. Other Bulgarian aircraft types involved were Mi-17’s, Mi-24’s and AS532 “Cougars” from 24 Vertoletna Aviacionna Basa (24.VAB), Krumovo Air Base.

A-10’s from the famous 23rd FW, 74th FS “Flying Tigers” based in Moody AFB, Georgia, participated in the exercise to train with the Bulgarian Armed Force. Just like the Russian build Su-25 “Frogfroot, the A-10 was designed solely for close air support (CAS), including attacking tanks, armored vehicles, and other ground targets.

All assets were here for a joint military training to set some important goals: the improvement of operational compatibility of Bulgaria’s air forces for participation in operations under NATO command, the improvement of flight technique of the personnel, as well as the improvement of logistic activities and maintenance of guest units.

Other objectives:

  • Practice dissimilar Tactical Intercepts (TI), Basic Fighter Maneuvers (BFM), Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM), Air Policing (AP) and Offensive and Defensive Counter Air (OCA/DCA).
  • Practice Escort, Sweep, and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) missions.
  • Conduct Close Air Support (CAS) missions incorporating Ground Base Air Defense (GBAD) threat systems.
  • Integrate Bulgarian FACs with U.S./NATO JTACs to familiarize and practice TTPs during Platinum Lion 16-2
  • Familiarize each country’s airmen with respective TTPs.

The United States Air Forces in Europe brought it’s fleet of A-10 tank-busters back to the States in 2013 as part of a consolidation of bases and equipment in Europe. But they sent them back to the continent as part of the theater security package”Atlantic Resolve”. The aircraft were sent to countries in the former Soviet bloc, in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and support for pro-Russian separatists. The planes have been a welcome sight during training exercises involving NATO forces in the Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, Romania, and Bulgaria.

The 23rd Wing at based Moody Air Force Base in Georgia send their A-10C Thunderbolt also known as Warthogs, as part of a second theater security package. These warplanes joined a number of U.S. aircraft that have recently flown missions around the continent, including the F-15 Eagle and the F-22 Raptor.

We would like to thank Dessy Radeva and all the Bulgarian Air Force and U.S. Air Force personnel involved for their great support and hospitality.