MiG 29 Crash Wrecks Largest Bulgarian, US Air Force Training
The Bulgarian Air Force has terminated all of its flights as a result of Thursday's crash in which a Bulgarian MiG 29 fighter jet went down during joint drills with the US Air Force, Defense Minister Anyu Angelov announced.
Thus, Thursday's incident has ruined the Thracian Star 2012 military exercise, which was supposed to last until May 11, and to boost substantially the interoperability between Bulgarian and US forces.
In addition, the crash of the Bulgarian MiG 29, in which the two pilots survived by bailing out, while also managing to direct the fighter jet away from populated areas, has led the Bulgarian authorities to cancel the VIP Visitors' Day at the Thracian Star 2012 drills that was supposed to be held on Friday, April 26, 2012, Gen. Angelov explained.
The Bulgarian military aviation will abstain from any flights until the causes of the incident with the MiG 29 are established, except for emergency flights. Meanwhile, the US Air Force will continue its schedule training in Southern Bulgaria as part of Thracian Star 2012, the Bulgarian Defense Minister said.
The two Bulgarian pilots who bailed out before their MiG 29 fighter jet crashed during the Thracian Star 2012 exercise of the Bulgarian and US Air Forces are in a sound condition.
The two pilots, Maj. Doychinov and Capt. Metodiev, catapulted out of the aircraft, and no victims or injured have been reported so far. They have been taken to the Military Hospital in Plovdiv, and their life is out of danger. One of them, most probably Capt. Iliya Metodiev, however, will be moved to the National Military Medical Academy in Sofia over suspicions that his spine might have been affected, Darik Radio reported.
They have back injuries that are typical after bailing out, Bulgaria's Defense Ministry said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
The Bulgarian MiG-29 aircraft plummeted into a river earlier on Thursday between the southern villages of Tsarimir and Golyam Chardak near Plovdiv.
Defense Minister Anyu Angelov visited them in the hospital in Plovdiv, and commended their quick reflexes and adequate reaction, as they managed to avoid populated areas and prevented death or destruction as a result of the MiG 29 crash.
"Bulgarian military personnel have demonstrated that they act professionally and responsibly in critical situations," he said. The Bulgarian Air Force and Military Police have formed a commission investigating the causes of the MiG 29 crash.
According to Darik, the most likely cause of the MiG 29 crash was the catching on fire by one of the plane's engines; the incident is yet to be investigated by a group of military experts from the Bulgarian Air Force and Military Police.
Defense Minister Angelov noted that Bulgaria is now left with 15 MiG 29s that will continue to be used to patrol the Bulgarian air space and to participate in NATO tasks.
Last week the air forces of the USA and Bulgaria have started the most large-scale military aviation drills of their type entitled "Thracian Star 2012".
The drills at the Graf Ignatievo Air Base near the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv are conducted jointly by the Bulgarian Air Force, the Romanian Air Force, and the 31st Force Support Squadron stationed at the Aviano Air Base, a NATO Air Base under US Air Force administration in northeastern Italy.
Because of the large number of US F-16 fighter jets participating in the drills – two squadrons of 16 planes each – Bulgarian media have been quick to note that the Aviano Air Base has moved to Graf Ignatievo.
The Graf Ignatievo Air Base has already been used jointly by Bulgaria and the USA for seven years. Bulgaria, Romania, and the USA have boosted their military cooperation in the recent years under the so called Task Force East (formerly known as Joint Task Force East). According to the Bulgarian newspaper 24 Chasa daily, the Romanian Air Force is also taking part in the Thracian Spring drills.
The Thracian Star 2012 drills taking place between April 17 and May 11, 2012, feature Bulgarian Air Force MiG-29, MiG-21, Su-25, and Spartan C-27J planes; US Air Force F-16s, and Romanian Air Force MiG-21s
The drills are managed by Bulgarian Brigade General Rumen Radev, deputy commander of the Bulgarian Air Force.
The major goals of the drills were to improve the tactical interoperability of the US Air Force in Europe and the Bulgarian and Romanian military aviation.
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