Approximately 250 U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 37th Airlift Squadron and 435th Air Ground Operations Wing from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and the 57th Rescue Squadron from Aviano Air Base, Italy, participated in the multinational exercise, Thracian Summer 2021, Aug. 20 – Sept. 3, 2021. Thracian Summer 21 conducted in Bulgaria saw C-27J Spartan aircraft from the Bulgarian Air Force working alongside USAF C-130J Hercules conducted tactical flights at low altitude, transportation of troops and cargo, training and combat parachute jumps day and night from low and high altitudes. This exercise saw forces operating from prepared to temporary landing sites within Bulgaria.
Giving the Allies training in operations in austere environment ensuring force elements can deploy with limited support. Simultaneously Bulgarian surface based air defence forces deployed with the task of providing anti-aircraft missile coverage of strategic sites of the critical infrastructure within the country. The exercise was designed to challenge the capabilities of the participants by presenting them with the chance to train with mission partners. Along with all of the other events, the players participated in an agile combat exercise to move munitions from a C-130 Hercules aircraft to awaiting F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft. This is the first time this has been done in the United States Air Forces in Europe’s history.
Repeated training exercises and collaborations between allied and partner forces allow U.S. and Bulgarian armed forces the opportunity to share their knowledge and experiences to create a stronger international coalition. Along with training with the Bulgarian armed forces, U.S. Airmen were able to participate in unconventional and specialized events. Because of this exercise, the partnership between the U.S. and Bulgaria has grown over the years and members from both nations are appreciative for the training and friendships they have made. Thracian Summer 2021 has further improved collective operational tactics, techniques and procedures of participants. It has underscored that Bulgaria is able to logistically support and host a live-fly exercise of this format.