Based on information provided by the Bulgarian Air Force
The annual multinational air exercise "Thracian Star 2016" is currently taking place in the Bulgarian skies. Led by NATO Ally Bulgaria, flying activity during the exercise occurs from 11 to 21 July 2016.
The Bulgarian Air Force and the air forces of Romania and Greece, as well as the California Air National Guard take part in "Thracian Star 2016". The main exercise objectives are to achieve greater interoperability in operations and to further improve capabilities and skills of operators in a NATO environment.
The Bulgarian Air Force participates with up eight fighter jets type MiG-29 (out of Graf Ignatievo Air Base) and Su-25 (out of Bezmer Air Base), four light fighters type L-39ZA, one C-27J transport aircraft and two helicopters type AS 532 AL and Mi-24 or Mi-17. Bulgaria also contributes SA-3, SA-6 and SA-8 ground based air defence systems.
Hellenic Air Force F-16 aircraft and Romanian Air Force MiG-21 Lancer fighter jets are flying in from their respective home bases, while up to eight United States Air National Guard F-15 jets from 194th Fighter Squadron based out of Campia Turzii, Romania, will join to train alongside the Bulgarian hosts.
The Thracian Star multi-Ally exercise series has been held annually under an agreement on defence cooperation between the United States and Bulgaria. The event has been expanded to include Bulgaria's neighboring countries.
The Bulgarian Air Force objectives for Thracian Star are to conduct flying training with the USA and regional air forces on an annual basis and to develop and enhance interoperability among Allied air forces. While the exercise offers an opportunity to familiarise in flying procedures in a deployed and/or coalition environment it also brings together dissimilar aircraft for Allied combined air operations.
The tactical level training is one major aspect for aircrews to harmonise their procedures and conduct basic fighting manoeuvres and tactical intercepts. Ground based air defence units participate to ensure scenarios are as realistic as possible.
Multinational exercises of Allies highlight forces that are capable of operating alongside each other during combined operations. They preserve the credibility of NATO Allies to effectively adapt to the changing security environment in Europe. Through long practice and commitment, exercises like Thracian Star forge Allied relationships and produce effective, well-trained and ready forces.