Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev has said that Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey should boost their co-operation in air policing in the face of a sharp increase in the need to scramble air force jets to respond to Russian surveillance aircraft skirting the edge of his country’s Black Sea coast airspace.
Plevneliev said on April 1 that in the past year, Bulgarian air force fighters had made as many unscheduled flights as in the past 20 years put together.
Like Turkey and Romania, Bulgaria is a Nato member and has taken part regularly in the military alliance’s exercises in the Black Sea area.
The government in Sofia has supported current European Union sanctions against Russia in response to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea but the Bulgarian Socialist Party component of the ruling axis has also leaned against further economic sanctions against Russia.
Complicating matters is the state of Bulgaria’s ageing air fleet, made up mostly of Soviet-era aircraft from the days of the country’s membership of the Warsaw Pact and its former place as a communist-era close ally of Moscow.
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Update: Bulgaria needs no additional support or deployment of additional forces on its territory, Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin said in an April 2 comment on the resources needed to track flights by Russia over the Black Sea.
Speaking after taking part in the Nato foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, Vigenin said that the Bulgarian Air Force could deal with the situation, but additional flights depleted the resources of the country’s MiG-29 fighters and decisions would have to be taken soon on the country’s combat aviation capacity.
Unlike Bulgaria, Romania and Poland already have more Nato forces on their territory because of the crisis in relations with Russia.