2014 Event Review

102nd Anniversary of the Bulgarian Air Force, Oct. 11, 2014
Location: Sofia-Vrazhdebna International Airport, Sofia, Bulgaria
Admission: Admission: Information N/A
Parking: Admission: Information N/A
Value: Excellent
Rating out of 10: 10
 
Bulgarian Mig29
MiG-29 Solo Demo

On October 11th, Sofia-Vrazhdebna International Airport, Bulgaria, hosted for the first time in 20 years a military air show, organized by the Bulgarian Air Force to celebrate the 102nd anniversary of the Air Force. Whose foundation dates back to 1912, when on October 16th an Albatross F-2 biplane flew a reconnaissance mission over Adrianople, the first military mission carried out by Bulgarian Air Force.

The air show was called 'This Is Us' and during two hours of displays the Air Force demonstrated its capabilities, showing both in the air and on the ground almost all types of aircraft currently on active duty. According to the BuAF there were two main goals of this airshow:

"1. To enlighten the Bulgarian public for the capabilities of the personnel of BuAF - their skills, dedication, firmness, determination.

2. To unite and motivate all the levels and functions of our staff".

Static display was located in the north area of the airport, where the public could come into contact with military personnel and equipments: radar and anti-aircraft missile systems, fighters such as MiG-21, MiG-29, the one showing the 25th year of service marks, and Su-25, PC-9M and L-39ZA trainers, A-109E, AW-139 and 'Cougar' helicopters, and all the transport aircraft based on this airport, An-30, C-27J, PC-12M, An-2, the only one still keep on flying condition due to its good charateristics as a paratroopers launch platform, L-410UVP-E and An-26, which was replaced by the new C-27Js three years ago.

The flying display was opened by paratroopers launch from a C-27J. The first flypast was performed by helicopters, from 24th Air Base Krumovo, in wedge formation led by a Mil Mi-17 flanked by two Cougars and two Bell 206s, followed by a Mi-17 showing fire-fighting manouver with water release through "Bambi Tank" system. The Bell 206s split from main formation and exhibited a perfectly synchronized show. While a Mi-17 provided air coverage over the airport, two Cougars demonstrated their tasks: search and rescue, tactical special force landing with "fast rope" technique, evacuation of wounded using the stretcher and final extraction of troops. In the coming months Air Force will receive two new Bell 206s as well as two new AS532ALs.

TTwo Alenia C-27J Spartans arrived in a low altitude tight formation. Just based on Sofia Airport, they showed two high speed opposite crosses, hard banks and high G's number manoeuvres. With an amazing display they proved the manageability and the agility of the new transport even at low altitudes useful to avoid enemy antiaircraft defences in operational missions.

Flight school was represented by instructors coming from Dolna Mitropolia Air Base. They flew complex aerobatics,first the solo performance of a PC-9M and then a pair of L-39ZA that exhibited both in pair and in solo. The jet-trainer, retired from service a few years ago, has been reintroduced into the air force's flying school at the end of 2013. Returned back into service at the end of March at the Graf-Ignatievo Air Base after one year of inactivity, MiG-21bis opened the part of the show dedicated to fast jets. Two fighters provided air coverage over the airfield showing basic combat manoeuvres filling the air with the sound of afterburners.

Two Su-25s simulated ground target attack on the field with a series of tactical manoeuvres, high G turns, deep dives and low passes, both in pair and in solo, giving a demonstration of the good agility of the Russian attack fighter. Su-25s are temporarily based at Graf-Ignatievo as Bezmer Air Base is under reconstruction in order to extend the runway, realize wider taxi ways and create a new ramp in order to meet NATO standards.

Final part of the air show saw two MiG-29s chasing each other in a spectacular simulated dogfight at low altitude and finally the amazing MiG-29 solo demo performed by the Commander of the Air Force Maj. Gen. Rumen Radev who exhibited the “Fulcrum” in an aggressive acrobatic programme. After a stunning take off with a hard left bank, he made a series of low passes and spectacular manoeuvres such as the "Cobra" and an incredible touch and go followed by a barrel roll. The show was closed with a fighter formation of two MiG-21bis', two MiG-29s, and two Su-25s. once on the ground, the aircraft were parked in front of the public so people could see the pilots.

About 50,000 people attended this air show that was an excellent showcase for the Bulgarian Air Force, a good way to attract young people to the military world and to receive public support for its renovation programme that required to buy 8-10
new multirole fighters in the near future.

We wish to thank the press office' s staff and Ognyan Stefanov for the organization and the support during the event.

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Bulgarian AF personnel

On the first line, from left to right - Col. Dimitar Ivanov -Commander of the 16 Air Transport Group (the host of the airshow); Major General Rumen Radev - Commander of the Bulgarian Air Force; Brig. General Anatoli Krastev - Deputy Commander of the Bulgarian Air Force. Behind them - most of the air crews participated in the air show, from all air bases, incl. Brig. General Ivan Lalov - Commander of Graf Ignatievo AFB; Col. Dimitar Petrov - Deputy Commander of Graf Ignatievo AFB; Col. Dimitar Danev - Commander of the Bezmer AFB, Col. Petyo Mirchev - Deputy Commander of the Krumovo AB, Col. Radojski - Commander of the Dolna Mitropolia Air Group, and many more commanders of squadrons, and experienced air crews. 

Performers Included:

Paratroopers and Tactical Forces SAR Demonstartion

PC-9M from Dolna Mitropolia Air Base

L-39ZA from Graf-Ignatievo Air Base

MiG-21bis

Su-25 from Graf-Ignatievo Air Base/Bezmer Air Base

MiG-29

MiG-29 Solo Demo

C-27J Spartan

Mil Mi-17 from Krumovo Air Base

Bell 206

Eurocopter Cougar

 

Report and photography by Alberto Celsan and Ruggero Piccoli for The Aviation Magazine

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