USAF F-16 fighters start NATO Air Policing Mission in Bulgaria

USAF F16 NATO policing Bulgaria
USAF F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Aviano AFB, Italy. Six F-16s from Aviano are currently involved in Nato Air Policing Mission in Bulgaria.

The U.S. Air Force began air patrol of Bulgaria's airspace under the NATO Air Policing Mission on September 28, 2020. The four-week mission involves six F-16 Fighting Falcon jets from Aviano AFB, Italy, operating from Graf Ignatievo AFB, Bulgaria, together with Bulgarian Air Force combat aircraft.

The US fighters had already been deployed in Bulgaria for several weeks to participate in the the Bulgarian Air Force-led exercise Thracian Viper 20

The NATO mission in Bulgaria has the primary purpose of responding to Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and the destabilization of eastern Ukraine. In addition to safeguard Bulgaria’s skies, the joint patrols will improve the ability of Bulgarian and US pilots to work together. Six Canadian F-18 Hornets are also operating in the region under the NATO mission, from neighbouring Romania.

NATO air policing missions are designed to secure the airspace of Allies. The air policing jets will take to the skies at short notice when military or civilian aircraft are in distress or they do not follow international flight regulations and approach the sovereign airspace of NATO Allies.

Allies deployed fighter detachments to Bulgaria on NATO duty for the first time in September 2016, when American F-15 fighter jets joined the Bulgarian Air Force for a similar mission.

Written by Matteo Sanzani