Two U.S. F-35s Have Deployed To Bulgaria Today

U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II's from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, flys alongside a 100th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker in formation during a flight to RAF Lakenheath April 25, 2017. The F-35’s are participating in their first-ever flying training deployment to Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christine Groening)

The U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft continue their tour of eastern Europe.

On Apr. 28, two U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft, 14-5094 and 14-5091, belonging to the 34th Fighter Squadron, from Hill Air Force Base and temporarily deployed to RAF Lakenheath, UK, arrived at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria.

The aircraft were supported by a single KC-135R Stratotanker, c/s “Nacho 81”, from 459th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, that launched from RAF Mildenhall.

Interestingly, the 5th Gen. aircraft used the very same radio callsigns used by the F-35s involved in the JSF’s first ever visit to Estonia on Tuesday: “Conan 01” flight.

According to the U.S. DoD, today’s training deployment has been planned for some time and was conducted in close coordination with Bulgarian allies. “It allows the F-35A the opportunity to engage in familiarization training within the European theater while reassuring allies and partners of U.S. dedication to the enduring peace and stability of the region.”

“The aircraft and Airmen began arriving in Europe on April 15, and are scheduled to remain in Bulgaria for a brief period of time before returning to RAF Lakenheath to continue their training deployment.”

Already deployed to Graf Ignatievo Air Base, to take part in exercise Thracian Eagle 2017 were also 12 F-15C Eagle jets belonging to the 122nd Fighter Squadron of the 159th Fighter Wing, Louisiana Air National Guard that are in the involved in the drills along with the local-based Bulgarian Air Force MiG-29s as well as Su-25s from the Forward Deployment Air Base at Bezmer, L-39s from the Air Training Group at Dolna Mitropoliya Air Base, AS-532 AL, Mi-24 and Mi-17 helicopters from Krumovo Air Base, and air defence units.

Whilst “Nacho 81” could be tracked during its flight (to and back from) Bulgaria, this time the deployment to eastern Europe was not “accompanied” by any evident activity by U.S. or NATO intelligence gathering aircraft. In contrast, as already reported, on Apr. 25, flight tracking websites exposed the presence of a U.S. Air Force RC-135U Combat Sent, an RC-135W Rivet Joint and a RAF Airseeker over or around Estonia.

The KC-135R supporting the F-35 to Bulgaria. (image credit: Adsb Exchange)

 

About David Cenciotti 4451 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

6 Comments

  1. Hi again, both F-35s have recovered back to LN this evening. Also, both the RC-135U and RC-135W did deploy out of Mildenhall again to the Baltic and returned early afternoon.

  2. Have you picked up any Intel whether the Israelis used their F-35s in the recent Syrian air strike?

  3. Remember, remember the 12th of October 1951 …
    Russian pilots called the flying superfortress is flying barns, so quickly and brightly they burn

    • Are you remarking the events of April 12th, 1951?

      “USAF pilots nicknamed April 12, 1951 “Black Thursday”, after 30 MiG-15s attacked three squadrons of B-29 bombers (36 planes) escorted by approximately 100 F-80s and F-84s. The MiGs were fast enough to engage the B-29s and extend away from their escorts. Three B-29s were shot down and seven more were damaged, with no casualties on the communist side.[5] Following this, USAF bomber sorties over Korea were halted for approximately three months. Bomber commanders were forced to discontinue daylight raids, and changed to night missions by small formations.”

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