F-35s forward deploy to Bulgaria


May 1, 2017 (by USAFE) – Two F-35A Lightning IIs and about 20 supporting Airmen arrived at Graf Ignatievo Air Base April 28 from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England.

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USAF F-35A #14-5091 assigned to 34 FS at Hill AFB, prepares to be refueled during a flight to Graf Ignatievo AB on April 28, 2017. Eight F-35s deployed to RAF Lakenheath, on April 15 and two forward deployed to Bulgaria for a brief time. [USAF photo by SSgt. Kate Thornton]

The F-35As are participating in the first training deployment to Europe. The aircraft and total force Airmen are from the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing, and the Air Force Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

“The United States and Bulgaria have a strong and enduring relationship,” said Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, the Third Air Force commander, during a press event after the arrival. “We routinely train through joint and combined initiatives like Operation Atlantic Resolve and in flying exercises like Thracian Eagle, Thracian Summer and Thracian Star. Our commitment to Bulgaria is but an example of our unwavering support to all allied nations.”

Similar to the aircraft’s visit to Estonia on April 25, this training deployment has been planned for some time and was conducted in close coordination with Bulgarian allies. It gives F-35A pilots the opportunity to engage in familiarization training within the European theater while reassuring allies and partners of U.S. dedication to the enduring peace and stability of the region.

“I have to say that for us, this makes us very proud,” said Maj. Gen. Tsanko Stoykov, the Bulgarian Air Force commander. “Our efforts have been appreciated and we are trusted as a reliable ally and it immensely contributes to the development of the bilateral relations between our two counties and our two air forces.”

This is the first overseas flying training deployment of the U.S. Air Force’s F-35As. The deployment provides support to bolster the security of NATO allies and partners in Europe while demonstrating the U.S. commitment to regional and global security.

“We are grateful to our…



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