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Thracian Eagle - 3 IAB Graf Ignatievo,  28 April 2015

The Louisiana Air National Guard’s 159th Fighter Wing from NASJRB New Orleans, LA deployed to 3 IAB Graf Ignatievo from April 16 till May 5, with eight F-15C/D Eagles and approximately 150 airmen. In this period they participated in Thracian Eagle 2015, a bilateral exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian Air Force.


During the exercise U.S. F-15C/D Eagles, Bulgarian MiG-29 Fulcrums and Su-25 Frogfoots were performing air-air combat and anti-aircraft missile defense drills. Bulgarian 2K12 Kub (NATO reporting name SA-6) and 9K33 Osa (NATO reporting name SA-8) anti-aircraft systems were deployed to make the exercises a bigger challenge for the pilots.


Frogfoots operating from Graf Ignatievo

As the runway of  22 ShtAB Bezmer is currently under construction a total of five Su-25s are temporary stationed at Graf Ignatievo. Three of these were flying sorties for the Thracian Eagle exercise. In 1985 Bulgaria was the second Warsaw Pact country to acquire the  Su-25.

The aircraft were intended to replace the obsolete MiG-17F which had been the backbone of the Bulgarian Air Force fighter-bomber fleet for many years. A total of 40 Frogfoots were acquired by Bulgaria of which only eight are believed to be in operational condition at this moment.


Fulcrums on high alert.

Three Bulgarian MiG-29s participated in the exercise as counterparts for the F-15s. The Bulgarian Air Force received 22 MiG-29s in the past of which twelve are believed to be operational at this time. Two of these are under a constant state of alert in the QRA role at Graf Ignatievo. Approximately twice a week the QRA is scrambled for possible airspace intrusions over the Black Sea. Around four o’clock in the afternoon the QRA alarm rang again and two fully armed Fulcrums taxied to runway 26 as two Russian Bears were heading towards Bulgarian airspace. The scramble was cancelled when the possible intruders diverted from their flightpath on time.


Fishbeds still in overhaul.

Unfortunately the MiG-21s didn’t make it through overhaul on time, so they didn’t participate in the Thracian Eagle exercise. During our visit to Graf Ignatievo we were able to take a look inside the maintenance hangars were the MiG-21s are prepared for their next operational period. On May 4, the first MiG-21 “28” took to the sky, which was the first Bulgarian Air Force Fishbed to fly in the past months.  (Click for a full log)





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