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Certification complete - enhanced Air Policing mission to begin over Bulgaria

GRAF IGNATIEVO, Bulgaria – On July 14, the Italian Air Force detachment based at Graf Ignatievo airbase, Bulgaria was certified full operational capability by NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) Torrejon, Spain, NATO’s southern air command and control authority.
As of Saturday July 15th, the Italian Typhoon fighter jets will be flying alongside Bulgarian MiG-29s, jointly securing the skies until mid-October 2017. The certificate was handed over to the Italian detachment commander by Brigadier General Antonio Branco, Director of Operations at CAOC Torrejon, during a ceremony at Graf Ignatievo airbase. Addressing the Italian and Bulgarian Airmen, he thanked them for their commitment to the Alliance. "These enhanced Air Policing missions are a clear demonstration of NATO’s resolve, commitment and solidarity” Brigadier General Branco stated. 

The ceremony was attended by high-ranking military and non-military guests, amongst them Bulgaria’s Viceminister of Defence, Atanas Zapryanov. He personally welcomed the Italian detachment to Bulgaria and underlined the significance of NATO’s enhanced Air Policing mission. "It is a convincing example of the unity and consistency of the Alliance’s defence and operational planning” he said.
The four Italian Typhoon jets arrived at the airbase one week before and had to undergo a certification progress, including orientation and familiarisation with the airspace before beginning their mission. Whilst Air Policing is a NATO wide 24/7 peacetime mission, enhanced Air Policing is part of NATO’s Assurance Measures to the eastern Alliance members, augmenting their existing Air Policing capabilities. 

A detachment from the Royal Air Force is currently based at Mihail Kogalniceanu airbase, Romania, augmenting the capabilities of the Romanian Air Force. Both missions are, as is all Air Policing in general, overseen by NATO’s Allied Air Command, headquartered in Ramstein, Germany.
Story by HQ AIRCOM Public Affairs Office

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