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Graf Ignatievo Air Base – home to Bulgaria’s military aviation

Brigadier General Nikolay Rusev: I believe that Bulgaria will fully complete the modernization of its military aviation

Photo: library

May 6 is the Day of Bravery and the Bulgarian Army. Since 1933, a military parade takes place each year on May 6 on occasion of the Bravery Day. However, this year’s military parade will take place behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Bulgarian Land Forces, Bulgarian Air Force, Bulgarian Navy and the Joint Special Operations Command in Kazanlak, Varna, Tsrancha Training Center and Graf Ignatievo Air Base will demonstrate their combat capabilities on St. George’s Day. The military flags water blessing ceremony will take place in front of the Monument to the Unknown Soldier in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia.

Fighter aircraft of Bulgaria’s Air Force will fly above Sofia on the Day of Bravery and the Bulgarian Army. “In 2021, Graf Ignatievo Air Base marks its 70th anniversary”, Brigadier General Nikolay Rusev, Commander of Graf Ignatievo Air Base said for Radio Bulgaria and added:

Brigadier General Nikolay Rusev

“Graf Ignatievo Air Base was established on May 17, 1951, when the 19th fighter air regiment was formed on the territory of the airport”.

The Bulgarian combat aviation has strong traditions. On October 16, 1912, pilots Radul Milkov and Prodan Tarakchiev conducted the first military flight in Europe.

The primary mission of the Bulgarian Air Force is to guarantee the air sovereignty and security of the country. Officers and pilots stand ready to react in any non-military emergency situations- fire, emergency transport of injured or seriously ill citizens, etc. That is why the modernization of Bulgaria’s Air Force is crucial. In the beginning of the new millennium, the air base near the village of Graf Ignatievo (Plovdiv district) is one of the most modern military airports in the Balkans. However, the military staff employed at the air base is preparing for more repair works in anticipation of the new F-19 Bloc 70 fighter aircraft.

F-16 Block 70

“We are going to build a separate area that will be used for the storage and operation of the F-16 fighter jets. We are to renovate the existing infrastructure and build a new one. Graf Igatievo Air Base is expected to be fully renovated by the middle of 2023. Then, we will be ready to receive the new fighter aircraft”, explained Brigadier General Nikolay Rusev.

In Nikolay Rusev’s words, the training of the pilots is already taking place:

“Bulgaria has to train 12 pilots how to fly the new aircraft under a contract signed with the U.S. Government. Last year this country sent a group of four pilots to the USA who are already training how to fly the F-16 Block 70 fighter aircraft. Thus, when the first pilots return to Bulgaria in 2023, they will continue their training on the F-16 aircraft, which will be already in Bulgaria. In the summer of 2021, we are to send two more pilots and the rest will depart to the USA in 2022.”

In conclusion, Brigadier General Nikolay Rusev thanked the whole staff of Graf Ignatievo Air Base for their service and voiced hopes that Bulgarian would fully complete the modernization of its combat aviation.

English version: Kostadin Atanasov

Photos: BGNES, grafportal.org, pan.bg and archive

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