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 Sep 30 2020

U.S. Air Force fighters certified to conduct NATO Air Policing in Bulgaria

RAMSTEIN, Germany – On Sep 30, an inspection team from NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) Torrejón certified the U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter aircraft ready to execute the enhanced Air Policing mission flying alongside the Bulgarian Air Force.

“During two simulated alert scrambles, the U.S. F-16 team demonstrated their capability and readiness for the Allied Air Policing Mission in Bulgaria,” said CAOC Torrejón Commander, Lieutenant General Fernando de la Cruz. “I congratulate our U.S. colleagues who have demonstrated that they are fully capable of patrolling international airspace over the Black Sea – providing a reach that enhances the defence of Allied territory,” he added. 

We demonstrate the cohesion, readiness and cooperation enabling us to contribute to effective deterrence and defence

“For four weeks the Alliance now has both enhanced Air Policing slots filled in the south,” General de la Cruz added. “This is an important operational achievement for NATO with a strategic dimension – we have a robust capability to safeguard the skies over Bulgaria and Romania. This allows for cooperative action of the quick reaction alert interceptors from Host Nations Bulgaria and Romanian and deployed Allies Canada and the United States showcasing the excellent interoperability of our Allied air forces. We demonstrate the cohesion, readiness and cooperation enabling us to contribute to effective deterrence and defence,” he concluded. 

The certification of the U.S. detachment is the culmination of CAOC Torrejón’s exercise TORREJÓN ALIBI. For a month, the CAOC staff connected air, maritime and ground-based command and control units in the Black Sea area, specifically over Romania and Bulgaria. They facilitated air intercept training and over-watch missions for deployed NATO vessels. Integrated into NATO’s enhanced Air Policing, exercise TORREJÓN ALIBI is part of Deterrence and Defence in the Euro-Atlantic Area employing Bulgarian, Canadian, Romanian and U.S. aircraft allowing for robust interoperability and integration training. 

The U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter detachment had seamlessly changed from its training role in the Bulgaria-led live-fly exercise Thracian Viper to an operational role executing NATO’s enhanced Air Policing with the Bulgarian Air Force; the deployment will end on October 26, 2020. The Royal Canadian Air Force started their enhanced Air Policing mission with the Romanian Air Force at the beginning of September and has since conducted an alert scramble and training sorties with regional Allies. 

NATO’s enhanced Air Policing – both in the south and in the north of the Alliance – is an assurance measure aimed at reassuring Allies along the eastern flank. The Alliance introduced these measures in 2014 in response to Russia’s illegal acts in Ukraine and Crimea; they are aimed at deterring aggressive acts against the Allies by meaningful deterrence and at demonstrating the defensive character of NATO’s actions.

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office

A United States Air Force F-16 fighgter aircraft at the Bulgarian Air Force Base at Graf Ignatievo near Plovdiv taxiing. Six F-16s are temporarily deployed here to conduct NATO enhanced Air Policing with the Bulgarian MiG-29 fighters. (Archive photo by Ericka Woolever/U.S. Air Force).
NATO's southern Combined Air Operations Centre at Torrejón, Spain, conducted the certification of the U.S. Air Force enhanced Air Policing detachment and will control their operations and flying activiy alongside the Bulgarian Air Force. (Archive photo by Sébastien Raffin).
Two Bulgarian Air Force MiG-29 taking off at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria. They will fly NATO Air Policing missions with the U.S. Air Force F-16 detachment to safeguard NATO airspace in the region. Archive photo by Dimo Vichev.

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