BTA News

Air Force Commander Petrov: Bulgarian Air Force Always Ready, Doing Its Job without Deviations or Violations

The Bulgarian Air Force is always ready and does its job without any deviations and violations, Bulgarian Air Force Commander Major General Dimitar Petrov said in an interview for BTA on the occasion of Aviation and Air Force Day in Bulgaria.

Every time the Bulgarian Air Forces have had to react, we have reacted appropriately and on time. When we have to do something, we do it, despite limited resources, old aircraft, low salaries, etc., Major General Petrov noted.

The implementation of allied commitments arising from the country’s NATO membership are a key element of Bulgaria’s defence policy. The Alliance remains the main guarantor of Bulgaria’s security and makes it more effective to successfully respond to possible threats to the country. Bulgaria is an active and reliable member of NATO and strives to contribute as much as possible to its successful activities in various areas. Bulgaria’s contribution to NATO activities is multi-component, the Air Force Commander said.

The first F-16 Block 70 aircraft will be delivered in 2025, Major General Petrov said. According to him, there is a working group meeting weekly at Graf Ignatievo Air Base and specifying the current status of the facilities, problems, etc. The base needs infrastructural changes, construction of new facilities with the relevant capabilities and functions to be prepared as a base airport for the new aircraft. This is quite a large undertaking, a grand project requiring serious efforts and the concentration of many people.

The Bulgarian Air Force has pilots who are at various stages in their training to fly the new fighters. They have been allocated in such a way that the training goes in phases, and the desired end result is that when the F-16s are delivered, the bulk of Bulgarian pilots in training will have just arrived in Bulgaria, so that they can start their training on the F-16 Block 70, right after they come back from the US, where they will be training on the F-16 Block 40.

We hope to acquire unmanned aerial systems in the future, we also need to expand the capabilities of military transport aviation – aircraft and helicopters. In recent years, the workload of this type of aviation has increased significantly, the Air Force commander said.

Spartan aircraft will soon be adapted for firefighting. As of now, the Bulgarian Air Force has one crew prepared. To be able to use this platform effectively, we need to have at least four crews, Major General Petrov stressed. In 2024, the other three crews will be trained and the already trained crew is qualified to be instructors.

In 2023, the Bulgarian Air Force participated in more than 40 rescue operations at home and abroad. In the period August 18-30 alone, the Air Force participated in the extinguishing of seven fires across Bulgaria. Crews spent over 50 hours in the air, with some airmen reaching ten hours in the air in a flying day. More than 500 tonnes of water were dropped on the fires, in comparison a standard firetruck four tonnes of water, Petrov said.

The Air Force also carried out search and rescue tasks in the mountains. In February, two Spartan aircraft also joined the aid efforts in Turkiye following the earthquakes in the country. On board were a team of 12 rescuers, two Bulgarian Red Cross all-terrain vehicles and five dogs from the Mountain Rescue Service.