There has been a dramatic increase in the number of reconnaisance flights by Russian military aircraft close to Bulgarian airspace at the Black Sea coast since the beginning of 2014, daily Sega said on March 25, citing Defence Ministry sources.
Bulgarian air force Soviet-made MiG-29s scramble two to 10 times a week to intercept the Russian reconnaisance flights and keep them from entering Bulgarian airspace, the report said.
The Russian aircraft, identified at Ilyushin Il-20s, have not violated Bulgarian airspace.
A Nato member, Bulgaria carries out its interception flights from the Graf Ignatievo air base on behalf of the military alliance.
Darik Radio reported Bulgarian Defence Minister Angel Naidenov as saying that in recent months, there had been an increased frequency in flights by Russian aircraft that prompted the Bulgarian air force to take off to check them.
Naidenov said that Bulgarian MiG-29s take off “almost every day” to intercept Russian aircraft.
It was unclear what the Russian aircraft were carrying and what the purpose of their flights was. Sega cited unofficial information as saying that the Russian aircraft appeared to be monitoring Bulgarian radar systems.
Turkey, also a Nato member, on March 3 sent eight F-16 fighters to intercept a Russian Il-20 near the Turkish Black Sea coast, local media said.
The Russians remained in international airspace.
The situation is being monitored by Nato AWACS airborne radar aircraft, operating from Romania, according to the report.
Bulgaria and Greece recently signed a technical agreement on air policing, after Bucharest and Sofia signed a similar agreement in 2010. The agreement signed between Athens and Sofia will allow Bulgaria to rely on Greek air force fighters in the event of violation of its airspace.
(Photo of a Russian Il-20: Kirill Naumenko)