Thracian Star

Hans van der Wilt and Bas Stubert report for GMAP from Graf Ignatievo Air Base; Bulgaria. Approximately 150 Airmen and eight F-16s from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard traveled overseas to participate in Thracian Star 2015, a Bulgarian-led multi-national training exercise at Graf Ignatievo Air Force Base, Bulgaria, from 13-24, July.

eight F-16s from the 177th Fighter Wing “Jersey Devils” of the New Jersey Air National Guard traveled overseas to participate in the Thracian Star 2015 exercise together with Bulgarian Air Force Su-25 Frogfoots and MiG-29’s Fulcrums and Mig-21’s Fishbeds.

Unfortunately for the Mig-21’s it is the final appearance in a multinational exercise as the type was retired from service a few weeks after the Thracian Star exercise.

“I’m very happy that the representatives of the New Jersey Air National Guard are here,” said Bulgarian air force Brig. Gen. Ivan Lalov, Graf Ignatievo Air Base commander. “It is always beneficial for the both sides, and it goes in two directions. First, in the air combat training such as basic flight maneuvers, to make our way of flying similar two each other’s and second, while we’re not flying, we succeed in developing new relationships, friendships, cultural differences and interesting facts about each other and each other’s country.”

“The 119th Fighter Squadron is excited to participate in Thracian Star and it is a great opportunity for us to interact with our Bulgarian counterparts, train with them and show them how flying with them will strengthen our NATO alliance,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Hassel, 119th Fighter Squadron commander.

“We came over here primarily to do air-to-air training in basic fighting maneuvers and tactical intercepts,” said Hassel. “With their aircraft being former Soviet Union designed aircraft, it will give our pilots a chance to fly against an actual MiG vs. a simulated MiG, which we usually have, and give them the chance to train against some NATO aircraft and observe those capabilities.”

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