New Jersey Air National Guard trains with Bulgarian air force at Thracian Star 2015

U.S. Air Force Airmen, from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, board a West Virginia ANG C-17 Globemaster III at Atlantic City International Airport, N.J., on July 13, 2015, to travel to Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Airmen, from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, board a West Virginia ANG C-17 Globemaster III at Atlantic City International Airport, N.J., on July 13, 2015, to travel to Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Airmen, from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, board a West Virginia ANG C-17 Globemaster III at Atlantic City International Airport, N.J., on July 13, 2015, to travel to Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Airmen, from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, board a West Virginia ANG C-17 Globemaster III at Atlantic City International Airport, N.J., on July 13, 2015, to travel to Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard are briefed by Lt. Col. Timothy Hassel, 119th Fighter Squadron commander, during Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, on July 10, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard are briefed by Lt. Col. Timothy Hassel, 119th Fighter Squadron commander, during Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, on July 10, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

Bulgarian air force Brig. Gen. Ivan Lalov, Graf Ignatievo Air Base commander, is photographed with U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from the New Jersey Air National Guard's 177th Fighter Wing in the background during Thracian Star at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, July 15, 2015.  Thracian Star is a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations. Pilots from both countries benefit from familiarization flights in each other's fighter jets. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

Bulgarian air force Brig. Gen. Ivan Lalov, Graf Ignatievo Air Base commander, is photographed with U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from the New Jersey Air National Guard's 177th Fighter Wing in the background during Thracian Star at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, July 15, 2015. Thracian Star is a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations. Pilots from both countries benefit from familiarization flights in each other's fighter jets. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Mark Cavanaugh, crew chief with the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, salutes the pilot of an F-16D Fighting Falcon as it taxis for takeoff at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria July 15, 2015. The 177th FW is participating in Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Mark Cavanaugh, crew chief with the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, salutes the pilot of an F-16D Fighting Falcon as it taxis for takeoff at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria July 15, 2015. The 177th FW is participating in Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Christian Mirande, left, and George Ruczynski, crew chiefs with the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, stand ready to marshall F-16C and D model Fighting Falcons prior to takeoff at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, on July 15, 2015. The 177th FW is participating in Thracian Star 2015, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Christian Mirande, left, and George Ruczynski, crew chiefs with the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, stand ready to marshall F-16C and D model Fighting Falcons prior to takeoff at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, on July 15, 2015. The 177th FW is participating in Thracian Star 2015, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

U.S. Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon from the New Jersey Air National Guard's 177th Fighter Wing rotates takes off from the runway at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, during Thracian Star on July 15, 2015. Thracian Star is a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

U.S. Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon from the New Jersey Air National Guard's 177th Fighter Wing rotates takes off from the runway at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, during Thracian Star on July 15, 2015. Thracian Star is a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Jason Gioconda, aircrew flight equipment superintendent with the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, goes over egress procedures with Bulgarian air force MiG-29 pilot Capt. Ivan Dinkov prior to his familiarization flight in an F-16D Fighting Falcon at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria on July 15, 2015. Gioconda and Dinkov are participating in Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations. Pilots from both countries benefit from familiarization flights in each other's fighter jets. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Jason Gioconda, aircrew flight equipment superintendent with the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, goes over egress procedures with Bulgarian air force MiG-29 pilot Capt. Ivan Dinkov prior to his familiarization flight in an F-16D Fighting Falcon at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria on July 15, 2015. Gioconda and Dinkov are participating in Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations. Pilots from both countries benefit from familiarization flights in each other's fighter jets. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

Bulgarian air force MiG-29 pilot Capt. Ivan Dinkov gives a thumbs up from the cockpit of a U.S. Air Force F-16D Fighting Falcon before his familiarization flight with a pilot from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard during Thracian Star at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, July 15, 2015. Thracian Star is a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations. Pilots from both countries benefit from familiarization flights in each other's fighter jets. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

Bulgarian air force MiG-29 pilot Capt. Ivan Dinkov gives a thumbs up from the cockpit of a U.S. Air Force F-16D Fighting Falcon before his familiarization flight with a pilot from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard during Thracian Star at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, July 15, 2015. Thracian Star is a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations. Pilots from both countries benefit from familiarization flights in each other's fighter jets. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Philippe Malebranche, right, and Maj. Benjamin Robbins, F-16 pilots with the 177th Fighter Wing, walk to their post-flight briefing after a training mission during Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force, at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, on July 13, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 10 of 20

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Philippe Malebranche, right, and Maj. Benjamin Robbins, F-16 pilots with the 177th Fighter Wing, walk to their post-flight briefing after a training mission during Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force, at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, on July 13, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-16D Fighting Falcon from the New Jersey Air National Guard's 177th Fighter Wing retracts its landing gear after takeoff at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, during Thracian Star on July 15, 2015. Bulgarian air force MiG-29 pilot Capt. Ivan Dinkov experienced the performance of the aircraft from the back seat during a familiarization flight. Thracian Star is a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force.   (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 11 of 20

A U.S. Air Force F-16D Fighting Falcon from the New Jersey Air National Guard's 177th Fighter Wing retracts its landing gear after takeoff at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, during Thracian Star on July 15, 2015. Bulgarian air force MiG-29 pilot Capt. Ivan Dinkov experienced the performance of the aircraft from the back seat during a familiarization flight. Thracian Star is a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Christian Mirande, crew chief with the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, performs a strut servicing in conjunction with his basic post flight inspection on an F-16D Fighting Falcon at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, on July 13, 2015. Mirande and approximately 150 airmen from the 177th FW are participating in Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 12 of 20

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Christian Mirande, crew chief with the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, performs a strut servicing in conjunction with his basic post flight inspection on an F-16D Fighting Falcon at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, on July 13, 2015. Mirande and approximately 150 airmen from the 177th FW are participating in Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

A Bulgarian air force MiG-29 Fulcrum takes off with a U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot from the New Jersey Air National Guard in the back seat for a familiarization flight during Thracian Star at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, on July 15, 2015. Airmen and F-16s from the 177th Fighter Wing flew sorties with the Bulgarian air force in the bilateral training exercise, designed to enhance interoperability. Some MiG-29, MiG-21 and F-16 pilots from each country were afforded the opportunity to fly in each other's jets and observe their capabilities. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 13 of 20

A Bulgarian air force MiG-29 Fulcrum takes off with a U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot from the New Jersey Air National Guard in the back seat for a familiarization flight during Thracian Star at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, on July 15, 2015. Airmen and F-16s from the 177th Fighter Wing flew sorties with the Bulgarian air force in the bilateral training exercise, designed to enhance interoperability. Some MiG-29, MiG-21 and F-16 pilots from each country were afforded the opportunity to fly in each other's jets and observe their capabilities. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

Bulgarian air force crew members board a C-27J Spartan cargo aircraft at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria during Thracian Star on July 14, 2015. Airmen and F-16s from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard also participated in Thracian Star, a robust training opportunity and exercise with Bulgaria which focused on maintaining readiness while building interoperability capabilities. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 14 of 20

Bulgarian air force crew members board a C-27J Spartan cargo aircraft at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria during Thracian Star on July 14, 2015. Airmen and F-16s from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard also participated in Thracian Star, a robust training opportunity and exercise with Bulgaria which focused on maintaining readiness while building interoperability capabilities. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

A Bulgarian air force MiG-29 Fulcrum taxis back to the ramp at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, during Thracian Star on July 15, 2015. Airmen and F-16s from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard flew sorties with the Bulgarian air force at Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise designed to enhance interoperability. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 15 of 20

A Bulgarian air force MiG-29 Fulcrum taxis back to the ramp at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, during Thracian Star on July 15, 2015. Airmen and F-16s from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard flew sorties with the Bulgarian air force at Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise designed to enhance interoperability. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

Bulgarian air force MiG-29 pilot Capt. Ivan Dinkov, left, shakes hands with U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot Lt. Col. Matthew Crill after a successful familiarization flight in a two-seat, F-16D Fighting Falcon, from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, during Thracian Star at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, July 15, 2015. Thracian Star is a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations. Pilots from both countries benefit from familiarization flights in each other's fighter jets. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 16 of 20

Bulgarian air force MiG-29 pilot Capt. Ivan Dinkov, left, shakes hands with U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot Lt. Col. Matthew Crill after a successful familiarization flight in a two-seat, F-16D Fighting Falcon, from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, during Thracian Star at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, July 15, 2015. Thracian Star is a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations. Pilots from both countries benefit from familiarization flights in each other's fighter jets. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

A Bulgarian air force MiG-21 Fishbed taxis at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria during Thracian Star on July 14, 2015. Airmen and F-16s from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard flew sorties with the Bulgarian air force at Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise designed to enhance interoperability. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 17 of 20

A Bulgarian air force MiG-21 Fishbed taxis at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria during Thracian Star on July 14, 2015. Airmen and F-16s from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard flew sorties with the Bulgarian air force at Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise designed to enhance interoperability. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Philippe Malebranche, F-16 pilot with the 177th Fighter Wing, prepares to start the turbine engine, close the canopy and taxi his Fighting Falcon to take off on a training mission during Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force, at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, on July 13, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 18 of 20

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Philippe Malebranche, F-16 pilot with the 177th Fighter Wing, prepares to start the turbine engine, close the canopy and taxi his Fighting Falcon to take off on a training mission during Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force, at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, on July 13, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Keith Bates, left, and Mark Cavanaugh, crew chiefs with the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, marshal F-16C Fighting Falcons prior to takeoff at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, on July 13, 2015. The 177th FW is participating in Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 19 of 20

U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Keith Bates, left, and Mark Cavanaugh, crew chiefs with the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, marshal F-16C Fighting Falcons prior to takeoff at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, on July 13, 2015. The 177th FW is participating in Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Keith Bates, crew chief with the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, marshals an F-16C Fighting Falcon prior to takeoff at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, on July 13, 2015. The 177th FW is participating in Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 20 of 20

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Keith Bates, crew chief with the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, marshals an F-16C Fighting Falcon prior to takeoff at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, on July 13, 2015. The 177th FW is participating in Thracian Star, a bilateral training exercise to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley/Released)

GRAF IGNATIEVO AIR BASE, Bulgaria -- Approximately 150 Airmen and eight F-16s from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard traveled overseas to participate in Thracian Star 2015, a Bulgarian-led training exercise at Graf Ignatievo Air Force Base, Bulgaria, from 13-24, July.

Thracian Star is a bilateral, total force training event to enhance interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations.

"I'm very happy that the representatives of the New Jersey Air National Guard are here," said Bulgarian air force Brig. Gen. Ivan Lalov, Graf Ignatievo Air Base commander. "It is always beneficial for the both sides, and it goes in two directions. First, in the air combat training such as basic flight maneuvers, to make our way of flying similar to each other's and second, while we're not flying, we succeed in developing new relationships, friendships, cultural differences and interesting facts about each other and each other's country."

Flying training deployments are tremendous opportunities for the 177th aircrews to hone their operational skills from a forward operating location.

"The 119th Fighter Squadron is excited to participate in Thracian Star and it is a great opportunity for us to interact with our Bulgarian counterparts, train with them and show them how flying with them will strengthen our NATO alliance," said Lt. Col. Timothy Hassel, 119th Fighter Squadron commander.

"We came over here primarily to do air-to-air training in basic fighting maneuvers and tactical intercepts," said Hassel. "With their aircraft being former Soviet Union designed aircraft, it will give our pilots a chance to fly against an actual MiG vs. a simulated MiG, which we usually have, and give them the chance to train against some NATO aircraft and observe those capabilities."

None of the currently tasked future missions of the 177th have been curtailed at this time.