More than 180 airmen and 12 F-15C Eagles from RAF Lakenheath, England, and Ramstein AB, Germany, are participating in Thracian Eagle 2014 in Bulgaria through Sept. 1. The bilateral training exercise, which launched Aug. 18 at Graf Ignatievo AB, Bulgaria, is intended to improve readiness and assuage regional allies, according to a US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa release. “We are here to demonstrate our commitment and resolve to our NATO partners,” said Lt. Col. John Stratton, commander of the 493rd Fighter Squadron at Ramstein. The primary goal “is to conduct bilateral flying operations like professional aviators and gain a better understanding of each other’s capabilities and limitations,” he said. The Bulgarian Air Force welcomed its US counterpart on Aug. 15 by performing both countries’ national anthem during an opening ceremony. “We are going to fly and work together to exchange experience and improve interoperability between our two countries,” said base commander Brig. Gen. Ivan Lalov.
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.