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 Sep 25 2020

Multinational Flying Drills End in Bulgaria

PLOVDIV, Bulgaria - The multinational live-fly exercise Thracian Viper 20 closed down on Friday, September 25, 2020 after two weeks of interoperability and capability training of Allies Bulgaria, Canada, Greece, Romania and the United States.

The Bulgarian Chief of Defence, Admiral Emil Eftimov, expressed his satisfaction with the flying training and the multinational aspects of the exercise “Thracian Viper 2020 is truly priceless for our Air Force pilots,” he said. 

Flying missions with Allies is important as it allows aircrews to learn from each other. "The interaction and teamwork with our Allies naturally expand our flying skills and experience, and thus enhance our professional self-confidence," said Captain "Crasher" Vetov, a Bulgarian MiG-29 pilot. “Thracian Viper 2020 is another invaluable opportunity for me to work with highly trained fellow pilots in the interest of our common goal to develop our abilities to perform joint tasks in the air," he added. 

Building an understanding of how our Allies operate improves our overall coordination during times of crisis

For 16 years, Bulgaria has traditionally hosted the Thracian Viper exercises which are among the largest in Bulgaria’s airspace offering multinational flying training for Allied fighter squadrons. While the Canadian, Hellenic and Romanian participants flew in from their respective home bases, the U.S. Air Force “Triple Nickel” 555th Fighter Squadron from Aviano Air Base operated out of Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria. 

"This exercise required all levels of a squadron to deploy small teams of Airmen and aircraft for a short amount of time to hone their skills,” said Major Rohan Naldrett-Jays, 555th Fighter Squadron Instructor Pilot, from the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy. “Thracian Viper 20 also enhanced their ability to rapidly deploy to a remote location, establish command and control and deliver airpower more effectively and efficiently anywhere in the world,” he added. 

“Having the opportunity to train with the Bulgarian and Romanian pilots has been incredibly beneficial for our squadron. Building an understanding of how our Allies operate helps us develop mutual understanding, and improves our overall coordination during times of crisis,” said Major Naldrett-Jays. “Exercises like Thracian Viper help us understand what operational differences we have, and work together to see best practices. These opportunities enhance our capabilities as a coalition,” he added.

The multilateral training exercise Thracian Viper is aimed to increase operational capacity, capability and interoperability. All involved participants applied their tactics, techniques and procedures together creating mutual learning effects that further improved integration and cooperation of Allied fighter squadrons.

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office based on information provided by Thracian Viper exercise participants 

Aerial maneouvres of Bulgarian Air Force L-39 and MiG-29 fighter aircraft and a Hellenic Air Force F/16 viewed from another Hellenic F-16 pilot's perspective. Photo courtesy Hellenic Air Force.
A U.S. Air Force pilot from the 555th Fighter Squadron, Aviano Air Base, Italy, performs a pre-flight check on a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria. Photo by Ericka A. Woolever.
A Bulgarian Air Force MiG-29 soars past a Bulgarian C-27 transport aircraft in an aerial demonstration at Graf Ignatievo Air Base. Photo courtesy Bulgarian Air Force.

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