The ‘Strela’ detachment, deployed at Graf Ignatievo AFB (Bulgaria), as part of the enhanced Air Policing (eAP) mission, has obtained the Full Operational Capability (FOC) by Combined Air Operations Centre Torrejón (CAOC-TJ), which is responsible for the surveillance and control of NATO airspace in southern Europe.
Starting today, Spanish EF-2000 fighter aircraft will fly alongside Bulgarian MiG-29s to jointly secure the bulgarian airspace until the end of March.
All the 130 Detachment’s airmen - composed on the basis of the 14th Wing - arrived in Bulgary on February the 11th and had to complete a certification process, which included orientation and airspace familiarisation before starting their mission.
MOPS Commander, Lieutenant General Francisco Braco Carbó, along with Brigadier General Athanasios Sextos, Deputy Commander of CAOC Torrejón, as well as the Bulgarian Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Emil Eftimov, the Spanish Ambassador to Bulgaria, Alejandro Polanco Mata, among other civilian and military authorities, attended the certification ceremony.
General Sextos expressed his gratitude to Spain and Bulgaria for "allowing an activity in which NATO shows that no member nation is alone". The Alliance's air policing "demonstrates the cohesion of the Allies in deterring any potential threat to our nations," he said.
Admiral Emil Eftimov personally welcomed the Spanish detachment to Bulgaria and underlined the importance of NATO's enhanced air police mission during his speech. "I am confident that the presence of the Spanish Air Force will contribute to enhancing the Alliance's security along its eastern flank and, in particular, to guaranteeing our country's air sovereignty," he said.
This deployment is part of the regular activities of the Armed Forces in fulfilment of Spain's international commitments, for the sake of deterrence and the defence of NATO countries.
On February 11th, four Eurofighter aircraft belonging to the 14th Wing took off from Albacete AFB, completing the deployment of the "Strela" Air Tactical Detachment to Graf Ignatievo AFB (Bulgaria). With this contingent, made up of 130 military personnel, Spain will participate in the 58th rotation of the enhanced Air Policing (eAP) mission.
During the mission, air operations will be managed from the Combined Air Operations Centre Torrejón, which is responsible for surveillance and control of NATO airspace in Southern Europe.
The Spanish Armed Forces first deployed internationally as part of NATO's Air Policing mission in 2006 and have been continuously participating in it since 2015.
NATO's enhanced Air Policing
Air Policing of the NATO airspace is a peacetime collective defence mission. Its purpose is to ensure preserving the integrity, safety and security of the airspace of the Allies. Participation in such joint missions enhances the Air Force capabilities to safeguard the integrity of Allied airspace.