Bulgarian Air Force marking three anniversaries at Graf Ignatievo Air Base
On the 29th of June 2019 the Bulgarian Air Force held an airshow to mark three anniversaries: 20 years Bell 206, 30 years Mig-29 and 40 years Mi-24. It’s quit extroardinary that the Bulgarian Air Force organised an airshow which was open to the public but due to the three anniversaries they’ve had enough reasons for organising it. For us this was a great opportunity to see aircraft and helicopters from the BVVS (Bulgarski Voenno Vzdushni Sili) up and close.
20 Years Bell 206 Helicopter
The light single-engined Bell-206 is primarily intended for training, aerial reconnaissance, transport purpose and medevac. The decision for acquiring this type of helicopter was made in 1998 and the first deliveries started in July 1999. In total six Bell 206’s have been delivered and all six are still operational within the Bulgarian Air Force.
Two decades of exploiting the Bell 206 are marked with scores of trained first class pilots capable to execute the main missions of the Bulgarian Armed Forces. Also the first female helicopter pilots for the Bulgarian Air Force are trained to fly on the helicopter which is known for the first female only crew helicopter flight in Bulgaria.
30 Years Mig-29 Fighting Fulcrum
The Mig-29 is a 4th generation light, front-line, supersonic fighter, easy to gain superiority in the air and capable of destroying air, ground and waterborn targets by day and night in VFR and IFR weather conditions and jamming environment. The contract for the delivery of the Mig-29’s was signed in 1987. The first team of pilots and maintainers left Bulgaria for the USSR on 29th august 1988. The first two Mig-29UB’s arrived in Bulgaria on 15th June 1989 and where flown by USSR pilots. Additional eight single-seat Mig-29’s joined them later in 1989. In 1990 Bulgaria received ten more single-seat and two more dual-seat Mig-29’s so in total 22 Mig-29’s where delivered, 18 single seat and 4 dual seat Mig-29’s. Unfortenately two Mig-29’s were lost by crashes, one single-seat and one dual-seat Mig-29. At this moment around twelve Mig-29’s are operational and around eight are being stored.
In October 1990 the squadron met all the demands for operational readiness and started carrying out the combat duties. In the beginning the Mig-29’s were based at Ravnets but moved to Graf Ignatievo in september 2000. For 30 years now, 24/7 the Bulgarian Mig-29 Fighter pilots have been efficiently guarding the airspace of Bulgaria. Since Bulgaria became a NATO member non-stop Air Policing (guarding of the air space) duties have been carried out within the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defense (NATINAMDS).
40 Years Mi-24 Hind Helicopter
The medium tonnage twin-engined Mi-24 Hind helicopter is primarily intended for close air support of the land forces. It’s designed to accomplish a variety of roles both in war time and peacetime. It’s capabilities are Close Air Support, Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), Medevac, Tactical transport, Aerial escort, Infiltration, Exfiltration and Aerial reconnaissance.
The Mi-24 is unique in being an attack helicopter within the Bulgarian Air Force. Since entering service in 1979, in four decades, the helicopter has succesfully executed all the assigned missions. In 1986 the total number of delivered Mi-24 helicopters was 44! According to the plan for development of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Bulgaria the number of Mi-24 helicopters was reduced and even withdrawn from service. Currently two Mi-24 helicopters are operating from Krumovo Air Base and a further four are to be added after the completion of an overhaul.
There was a small static which contained two Mig-29’s (one single and one dual), two AS-532’s and two Mig-21’s (one UM and one Bis)! The two Mig-21’s are withdrawn from use but looked in a very good condition and according to pilots these Mig-21’s can be servacible within a few days! In a hangar another Mig-21Bis could be seen.
Before the flying display could start the Bulgarian minister Bojko Borisov inspected the soldiers and took place in the VIP tent to enjoy the dynamic display. Not long after that an Mi-17 helicopter opened the three hours dynamic display with a fly-by with the Bulgarian flag underneath it, followed by a parajumping task from an AS-532 Cougar Helicopter.
After this a Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) mission was executed for a bailed-out pilot in a hostile environment. First did an L-39 aerial reconnaissance and two Su-25 Frogfoots executed Close Fire Support (CFS) destroying ground targets. The Bell 206 performed reconnaissance of the area, locating and identifying the pilot in distress. The Mi-24 secured the area and was prepared for Close Combat Attack (CCA). An AS-532 Cougar performed infiltration using the fast rope method and another AS 532 Cougar executed an infiltration of the Search And Rescue (SAR) personnel using the Rappel method and extraction by hoisting a stretcher for the pilot in distress. The first AS-532 Cougar came back and performed an Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) mission to transport the bailed out pilot. What a great demonstration this was to see, absolutely stunning!
The next demonstation was a Mig-29 two-ship who demonstrated the NATO “Air Policing” mission to intercept a “renegate” aircraft, a C-27J Spartan. The Mig-29’s forced the C-27J to land at Graf Ignatievo. After this the PC-9M trainer aircraft performed a demonstration flight at low altitude followed by an L-39 which also did a low altitude demonstration flight. After this the Mig-29 Fighters came back in action by performing Base Fighter Maneuvres (BFM) one versus one.
The following demonstration was an Mi-17 Helicopter which performed a Firefighting Mission using the aerial firefighting technology using the Bambi Bucket with a tank capacity of up to 3 tonnes. After this there should be two Bell 206’s performing a demonstration flight but unfortenately it was performed by one Bell 206. Then the mighty Mi-24 Hind helicopter came back and performed a demonstration flight followed by a demonstration flight at low level by a Mig-29 Fulcrum. The dynamic display ended by the three types which had a anniversary by performing a flight pass, first the Mi-24 Hind with smoke then the Bell 206 and the Mig-29 Fighting Fulcrum ended the dynamic display.
The Authors of Lowpass Aviation.com would like to thank the personnel of the Bulgarian Air Force for their hospitality and their time and help during our visis to Bezmer Air Base.