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USAF F-15s to help protect Bulgarian airspace

25 August 2016
A pair of USAF F-15C Eagle fighters preparing to depart RAF Lakenheath in the UK for an earlier training deployment to Bulgaria. The service will now send two Eagles to the Eastern European country in an operational capacity for the first time. Source: US Air Force

The US Air Force (USAF) is to temporarily bolster the air defences of Bulgaria by committing a pair of Boeing F-15C Eagle combat aircraft to joint patrols with Bulgarian Air Force (Bulgarski Voenno Vazdushni Sili: BuAF) MiG-29 'Fulcrum' fighters.

The joint patrols, announced by NATO on 24 August, will commence on 9 September and run for a week as part of wider measures to reassure the alliance member nations of Eastern Europe.

According to NATO, this first air policing deployment of the USAF F-15Cs to Bulgaria is taking place at the request of that country's government. The F-15Cs and MiG-29s will scramble in response to military and civilian aircraft that do not follow international flight regulations, or approach NATO airspace without proper clearance.

The USAF has stepped up its deployments to Eastern Europe in particular following the breakdown of political relations between the West and Russia over the actions of President Putin in Ukraine. A number of Theater Security Packages (TSPs) have been rotated through Europe since the first arrived in early 2015. These TSPs have typically been made up of F-15C fighters and/or Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II ground attack aircraft.

Further to these TSPs, the USAF maintains permanently deployed aircraft in Europe, and contributes to NATO air policing missions in the Baltic region and over Iceland.

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