US Air Force 555th Fighter Squadron F-16s Arrive in Bulgaria for Thracian Star 21
US Air Force 555th Fighter Squadron F-16s Arrive in Bulgaria for Thracian Star 21

US Air Force 555th Fighter Squadron F-16s Arrive in Bulgaria for Thracian Star 21

More than 150 personnel and eight F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 555th Fighter Squadron, at Aviano Air Base, Italy, are participating in Thracian Star 21, a Bulgarian air force-led exercise, at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, July 9-23, 2021. Thracian Star 21 is an operational and tactical level field training exercise aiming to maximize interoperability, combat effectiveness and survival awareness while operating in a dynamic high-threat environment. During the exercise, U.S. Air Force pilots have the opportunity to train alongside the Bulgarian air force, Romanian air force, and the Hellenic air force.

Four U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 555th Fighter Squadron prepare to land at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, for exercise Thracian Star 21, July 9, 2021.
Four U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 555th Fighter Squadron prepare to land at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, for exercise Thracian Star 21, July 9, 2021.(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brooke Moeder)

“These types of exercises emphasize interoperability and give us the opportunity to learn how to work together and learn how to fight together. I’m looking forward to seeing the whole team operate outside of home station because it’s more of a contingency type environment. If we had to do this for real, this is most likely the type of environment we’d be working in. It’s a mix of air-to-air, air-to-ground, and long range intercept training,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Ryan, 555th Fighter Squadron commander.

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U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 555th Fighter Squadron (FS) park on the flightline in preparation for Thracian Star 21 at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, July 9, 2021.
U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 555th Fighter Squadron (FS) park on the flightline in preparation for Thracian Star 21 at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, July 9, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brooke Moeder)

This multilateral training exercise aims to enhance the ability to rapidly deploy to remote locations and provide credible force to assure stability for the region. Multinational training through Thracian Star 21 allows both U.S. Air Force Airmen and Bulgarian, Greek, and Romanian forces to extend joint warfighting capability through operational and tactical training. Then there’s also a fair amount of air-to-ground training. During this exercise, the 555th FS has the opportunity to employ a variety of munitions here at the ranges in Bulgaria.

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 555th Fighter Squadron lands at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, for exercise Thracian Star 21, July 9, 2021.
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 555th Fighter Squadron lands at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, for exercise Thracian Star 21, July 9, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brooke Moeder)

The 55th Fighter Squadron is part of the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. It operates the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft conducting air superiority missions. The squadron is one of the oldest in the United States Air Force, its origins dating to 9 August 1917, being organized at Kelly Field, Texas. It deployed overseas to France as part of the American Expeditionary Forces, as an aero construction squadron at the Third Aviation Instructional Center, Issoudun Aerodrome.

Senior Airman Brooke Parks, 555th Aircraft Maintenance Unit F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chief, marshalls a U.S. Air Force F-16 at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, July 9, 2021.
Senior Airman Brooke Parks, 555th Aircraft Maintenance Unit F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chief, marshalls a U.S. Air Force F-16 at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, July 9, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brooke Moeder)
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