Dutch, Spanish fighter jets to help guard Bulgaria’s air space

New F-35 fighter jets from the Netherlands Air Force and Spanish Air Force Eurofighters are to assist in guarding Bulgaria’s air space, Defence Minister Stefan Yanev was quoted by his ministry as saying on January 22.

Although it has been regular practice for Nato allied aircraft to help guard Bulgaria’s air space in recent years, given the country’s shortfall in fighter jets pending delivery of the F-16s it has ordered, Yanev was answering questions in the context of the tensions on Nato’s eastern flank, given concerns about possible further Russian aggression against Ukraine.

“We know very well what the real state of the armed forces is and that there are certain shortcomings,” Yanev said.

“It is these shortcomings, where we have them, and where it is assessed from a military-technical point of view, that will be compensated for by this type of capabilities of Nato allies,” he said.

Yanev was speaking a day after Russia’s Foreign Ministry called for the withdrawal of Bulgaria and Romania from Nato and “a return to the configuration as of 1997 on the territory of countries that were not Nato members on the specified date”.

Russia’s call has been rejected by Bulgaria’s government and by Nato.

Yanev said: “I do not want Bulgarian citizens to be left with the impression that something special happened yesterday, that someone pointed a finger at Bulgaria and made a special statement. This type of statement is made regularly and I don’t think we should be so sensitive when someone talks about us”.

A Spanish Air Force Typhoon. Photo: UK Ministry of Defence

Separately, the Netherlands Air Force said on January 20 that the country was on standby to make an extra contribution to strengthening the deterrence and defence of Nato.

Dutch Defence Minister Kasja Ollongren told the country’s parliament that there was a worrying Russian troop build-up on the border with Ukraine and Russia was behaving more and more aggressively, which was why Nato was strengthening its deterrence and defence.

The Dutch Defence Ministry was deploying two F-35 fighter aircraft, including support personnel.

The aircraft would carry out quick reaction tasks from Bulgaria. They could be deployed immediately to intercept unknown aircraft over the Nato treaty area, the statement said.

(Main photo: Netherlands Air Force)

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