RAMSTEIN, Germany – The Bulgarian Air Force have been committed to safeguarding Allied airspace and an integral part of NATO's Air Policing mission since March 29, 2004.
Their Air Policing efforts began just a week prior to Bulgaria's official membership in NATO, dated April 4, 2004. Initially, the mission was carried out by two-ship formations of two types of fighter jets, MiG-21 and MiG-29. At the end of 2015, the Air Force took decision to decommission the old MiG-21s and to continue the execution of the Alliances mission with two MiG-29s holding Quick Reaction Alert, 24/7 in all weather conditions.
Bulgarian MiG-29s in formation alongside Italian Eurofighters during their enhanced Air Policing deployment. Photo courtesy of the Bulgarian Air force.
Bulgarian MiG-21 during a routine patrol before decommissioning in 2015. Photo courtesy of the Bulgarian Air force.
Bulgarian MiG-29 alongside a NATO AWACS during one of many joint missions in the Black Sea region. Photo courtesy of the Bulgarian Air Force.
NATO's collective defence mission requires all Allies to carry out joint tasks in the interest of the integrity and security of Alliance airspace
"I am honoured and proud that the Bulgarian Air Force is sufficiently capable to reliably carry out the Air Policing mission and secure the airspace of the Republic of Bulgaria as part of the NATO Air Policing mission," said Major General Dimitar Petrov, Commander of the Bulgarian Air Force. "NATO's collective defence mission requires all Allies to carry out joint tasks in the interest of the integrity and security of the Alliance airspace. In this sense the performance by the Bulgarian crews helps guarantee of stability and security of the region," he added.
From 2015 the Bulgarian Air Force has hosted several visiting units from Allied nations to jointly secure the skies over the Eastern flank of NATO, forging long-lasting and strong friendships. As part of NATO's assurance measures the enhanced Air Policing mission has seen the deployment of the US Air Force squadrons in 2016 and 2020, and an Italian Air Force unit in 2017. These deployments allowed the teams to learn from each other's capabilities and to share expertise with the overall aim to demonstrate the readiness and will to defend the integrity of not only Bulgarian airspace but contribute to the wider defence of NATO.
17 years after joining NATO, the Bulgarian Air Force continues to police the skies of Bulgaria within the scope of NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System and take all necessary measures to prevent any unlawful infringement of NATO airspace. Under command and control of interconnected national and NATO systems, the Bulgarian fighter jets stay ready to respond to any adversary threat in the region.
As no nation is able to prepare for contemporary challenges alone, the Bulgarian Air Force will continue to organise and participate in multinational training and exercises with Allied and Partner nations in order to enhance interoperability and to increase mutual trust and readiness.