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

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley
  • 177th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
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.