The Bulgarian air force terminated all of its flights on Thursday, April 26, after one of its MiG-29 fighters crashed in a training drill with US Air Force F-16s during Exercise Thracian Star, reported the Sofia News Agency, citing Bulgaria’s Defense Minister Anyu Angelov. The MiG-29 reportedly went down in an unpopulated area near the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv. The two pilots managed to bail out and were in good condition, according to the news agency. As a result of the crash, Bulgarian military aviation flights are on hold, except for emergencies, until the cause of the crash is known. An engine fire may have doomed the jet, said Bulgarian defense officials. The news agency said USAF F-16 flights will continue as part of Thracian Star, which began last week at Graf Ignatievo Air Base near Plovdiv and is scheduled to continue through May 11. The Air Force contingent of airmen and F-16s at the exercise is deployed from Aviano AB, Italy.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.