A visit to the 8th Bulgarian International
Aviation Festival at Krumovo Air Base
The year 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of Bulgarian Aviation. In
celebrating this historic anniversary, the organizers –the Bulgarian Air
Force and Bulgarian Air Force Foundation- hosted an official
celebration. A commemorative conference on 100 years Bulgarian Aviation
aptly titled - Past, Present and Future was held during the 8th
Bulgarian International Aviation Festival (BIAF 2011) on September 2 to
4, 2011, at Krumovo air base near the city of Plovdiv.
On the first day, a symposium was held at Plovdiv International Airport,
a regional airport whose infrastructure is shared between the military
("Krumovo") and civilian users. The symposium was opened with a welcome
speech by the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Georgi Parvanov.
All aspects of Bulgarian aviation development during the last 100 years
were highlighted during the symposium. A good part was filled with
presentations by the contenders for the bid to provide the Bulgarian Air
Force with a new multi-role fighter aircraft.
On the second day -also the first day of the public air show- the event
("Past") started with the handover of three restored heritage aircraft
to the air force museum, also located at Krumovo. The museum was
established in 1991 and already has a large collection of aircraft and
helicopters which served in the Bulgarian Air Force, including a very
special WWII-era Arado Ar 196. Amongst the exhibits is the most produced
Bulgarian airplane, the Laz 7M. Airplanes of World War II include the
Yak-9, Li-2, Il-2 and Tu-2. The jet age shows their very first jet
fighter, the Yak-23, and almost all models of the MiG-family of
fighters. Also presented are several different helicopters, ranging from
their first armed Mi-1 to the more recently used Mi-8 and Mi-24D.
Utility aircraft and a few civil operated types complete the large
The flying program ("Present") was opened by a presentation of the
Bulgarian Air Force showing its capability during a show with
incorporated an air intercept of a ‘stray’ C-27 by two MiG-21’s, an air
power demo by Mi-17 end Cougar helicopters from local 24th Helicopter
Air Base Krumovo, supported by a SU-25UBK attack jet, flown in from its
home base of Bezmer. A Mi-17 helicopter made a demonstration water drop
from a bambi-bucket, something most of the guests at the conference on
Friday had already witnessed for real when a large brush fire raged
along the southern edge of the base, skirting the museum grounds and
blackening the main gate area.
Other flying demo’s of local origin
included a PC-9 and MiG-29. All Bulgarian Air Force fixed wing flights
were operated from nearby fighter base Graf Ignatievo and all foreign
guests operated their flight demonstrations locally; from the civil ramp
at Plovdiv International. Switzerland participated with a 9-ship PC-7
demonstration, giving one of their streamlined displays.
Always interesting for the general
public was a race between a MiG-29 and a race car, in this case Formula
2, which tried to outrun a MiG-29 on take-off. Behind the wheel of the
car was Plamen Kralev, Bulgaria’s most successful autosport driver. The
race was won by the MiG-29 of course.
The airshow itself was good in lenght and provided both the local public
and the more informed enthousiast a good mix of flying entertainment.
Although the air force and defence budget in Bulgaria –like most
countries in Europe- is under tremendous pressure, the Bulgarian Air
Force has given their public a decent show, performed safely and
enthousiastically. Recent budget cuts and developments in neighbouring
countries prevented a larger turnout of aircraft in both the static show
as well as the flying program. The Bulgarian Air Force is to be
applauded for their efforts in organizing such an international event,
including the special one-off 100 Years conference.
Latest news: Bulgaria postpones purchase of new multi-role fighters
Defense Minister Anyu Angelov released a statement on October 26th 2011,
explaining that Bulgaria is to postpone a tender for eight new or
second-hand multi-role fighters to replace their current fleet of dated
MiG-21bis/UM and Su-25K jets. Budget cuts on a national level prevent
the Air Force from proceeding with the tender in 2012. Work on preparing
the tender is to proceed, but inevitably the introduction date of
2014/15 is expected to slip at least by one year.
Representatives of EADS and SAAB already confirmed to us during BIAF
2011 that they had serious concerns on the follow-up of their answers to
the Bulgarian RFI, which they had delivered mid-April 2011. The
replacement aircraft are o.a. needed for NATO compatibility issues and
are not directly needed for air policing of QRA duties, since their
MiG-29s (dating from 1989/90) are to serve until around 2025.
To cater for this longer use, Bulgaria signed a new maintenance and
repair contract with RAC MiG for the MiG-29s during the show. Although
the MiG-29 is not a formal contender for the purchase, the Russian
manufacturer chose to show the OVT (variable thrust vectoring) variant
at BIAF, where the demonstration was warmly welcomed by the public. EADS
showed their Eurofighter for the first time in Bulgaria at BIAF 2011,
while SAAB flew in operational jets and pilots from Sigonella (Italy),
where they are flying combat missions in support of the UN-enforced
no-fly zone over Libya