During the two week deployment, missions were flown with Bulgarian Air Force MiG-29A/UB’s from 2 Iztrebitelna Avio Eskadrilabased at Graf Ignatievo and 1/22 Shturmova Avio EskadrilaSu-25K/UBK’s on TDY from Bezmer AB whilst the runway at Bezmer is being extended. Missions flown included Basic Combat Training (BCT) and Dissimilar Aircraft Combat Training (DACT). SAM missile batteries equipped with amongst others, the 9K37 Buk (NATO reporting names SA-11 Gadfly/SA-17 Grizzly) and 9K33 Osa (NATO reporting name SA-8 Gecko) missiles were also involved, giving the visiting Eagles some realistic training against modern Russian-designed weapon systems. Typically, two missions were flown each day. Usually the Su-25’s would form a strike package, protected and attacked by MiG-29’s and/or F-15’s. The number of aircraft per mission varied, but it was not uncommon to see seven Eagles, up to four MiG-29’s and up to three Su-25’s participate. Both the Bulgarians and the Americans got a taste of the other air forces aircraft, the two F-15D’s and two MiG-29UB’s gave both teams the opportunity to fly a mission in each other’s fighters. Many of the flights were flown into the eastern part of Bulgaria.
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New old fighters
At Graf Ignatievo, the word was that the based MiG-21’s are to resume flying in May 2015. After delays in getting all the necessary spare part from Russia; deliveries finally came through. Whilst Thracian Eagle was in full swing; mechanics were busy working on the fleet of MiG-21’s in the large maintenance hangars on the base. The MiG-21’s are expected to be operational in time for exercise Thracian Eagle II, which will see the arrival of twelve 125th FW/159th EFS Florida ANG F-15C/D’s in early May. These Eagles are on a six-month deployment to Europe and have already participated in Frysian Flag 2015 at Leeuwarden air base, the Netherlands. They are expected to remain at Graf Ignatievo for a full month before redeploying to Norway. After this exercise Thracian Star is planned for July 2015 with F-16’s from the 177th FW, New Jersey ANG participating alongside the based aircraft.