Today, August 24th, the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria adopted a decision authorising the joint conduct of air policing tasks for the purposes of defence of our national airspace, to be carried out by the Bulgarian and the US Air Forces between September 9th and September 16th, 2016. The decision of the Council of Ministers provides for and regulates the activities of the Bulgarian Air Force and the US Forces related to the conduct of specified joint tasks, while determining specific restrictions and limitations pertaining to the US Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) aircraft. During the period of the Air Policing mission, the Bulgarian QRA aircraft will be given priority. Each of the two nations will bear its own costs as incurred by their own assets involved in the joint missions.
The restrictions and limitations introduced by the Council of Ministers Decision clearly and unambiguously demonstrate that the sovereignty of Bulgarian national airspace remains under national control. When conducting the air policing mission within the airspace of the Republic of Bulgaria, the US QRA aircraft will be limited to conducting the following missions: Combat Air Patrol (CAP); interception; visual identification (V-ID); shadow and intervention.
For the purposes of the conduct of the Joint Air Policing mission, eight aircraft from the US Air Force, aircrews, and maintenance personnel will deploy to the Republic of Bulgaria at the end of August. Two aircraft from the U. S. Forces will be on QRA duty with regard to conducting specific air policing activities.
The air policing tasks are part of the implementation of the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System Standing Defense Plan (NATINAMDS SDP). The SDP provides for and regulates the activities to be conducted by the Allies in peacetime, in times of crisis, and in armed conflict. As a NATO Member State, Bulgaria conducts tasks under the NATINAMDS SDP.
The decision made by the Government on jointly fulfilling air policing tasks to protect the sovereign airspace of the Republic of Bulgaria by the Bulgarian Air Force and the US Air Force has the goal to guarantee the security of the Allies from Eastern Europe and the enhanced forward presence of Allied forces on the eastern flank of the Alliance. This is done in order to implement the measures adopted by the heads of state and government of the NATO member countries at NATO Summits in Wales in 2014 and in Warsaw in 2016. One of these measures is to enhance the air policing mission on protecting the airspace of the Alliance’s members on the eastern flank with allied forces on rotational principle. With a view to implementing these measures, in February 2016, the National Assembly of Bulgaria adopted amendments to the Defence and Armed Forces Act which regulate the possibility of conducting joint air policing missions.
The conduct of tasks under joint operations will contribute to enhancing the level of training of the flight personnel and the capabilities of our combat aviation. Hence, we will not allow any weakening of our capacity to ensure Bulgaria’s and NATO’s air sovereignty.
By 15 April 2016, Bulgaria is to submit its national report on the Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
The information exchanged on an annual basis between our country and the rest of the OSCE participating States is prepared jointly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, and the Ministry of Interior on the basis of answers to the questionnaire adopted by the OSCE participating States. The better part of the questions falls under the competence of the Ministry of Defence. Those relate to, among others, the legislative basis regulating defence planning, democratic control, roles and missions of the Armed Forces, the execution of the military service, education in international humanitarian law, the legal and the administrative procedures to protect the rights of the Armed Forces personnel.
*** In 1994, the participating States of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) adopted a Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security. The Code is a fundamental document setting forth the principles of good governance in the security sector management and playing the role of a monitoring mechanism as regards the observance of the said principles. It became effective as of January 1st, 1995. The exchange of information carried out under the Code contributes to confidence and security building between the countries. As an additional transparency measure, the reports are published on OSCE’s website.
On 17 November, Deputy Minister of Defense Mr. Dimitar Kyumyurdzhiev and the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO Policy Mr. James Townsend conducted bilateral working group meetings in the Ministry of Defense. The delegation led by Mr. Townsend included representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, United States European Command, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the United States Air Force and the US Embassy in Sofia.
The visit’s purpose was to enhance the bilateral cooperation and strategic dialogue in the defense and security field as was declared during the visit of John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, in January this year. The meetings were also conducted as part of the regular political-military consultations in accordance with the 28 April 2006 Agreement between the Republic of Bulgaria and the United States of America for cooperation in the field of defense (DCA). The discussions comprised issues of mutual interest related to deepening cooperation both bilaterally and within NATO. An emphasis was put on the results achieved from the work of the interagency Defense and Security Working Group, the future of the European Reassurance Initiative, Operation Atlantic Resolve, adaptation measures to NATO Readiness Action Plan, possibilities for conducting joint air policing, opportunities for building contemporary defense capabilities, and the Naval cooperation in the Black Sea.
In a closed session of the Council of Ministers, held today, October 7th, Defence Minister Nikolay Nenchev submitted for consideration and approval a draft of a Government-to-Government Agreement on the supply of logistic support for MiG-29 aircraft in the Republic of Poland. The Government approved the draft and gave a mandate to Minister Nenchev to enter into the Government-to-Government Agreement with Poland.
For the purpose of preparing the above agreement, the Ministry of Defence carried out a preliminary market research to examine the potential within the EU and NATO for provision of integrated logistics support for MiG-29 aircraft. The market research established that Poland was the only country into the above scope to have capabilities to maintain and overhaul MiG-29 aircraft.
The proposed draft Agreement aims to ensure the airworthiness of MiG-29 aircraft, providing for arrangements for repair of six engines, as well as for temporary use of two engines property of Poland for a period of two years.
The agreed repair price amounts to EUR 1,023,000 per engine and the transportation costs will be borne by the Polish Party. The first two Polish engines will be delivered within 20 days as of the date of entry into force of the Agreement.
The document also details the manner of settlement of disputes between the two Parties to the Agreement, as well as the overhaul quality assurance, responsibility for which will be borne by the Polish state.
Upon signature by Minister Nenchev, the Council of Ministers will submit the Agreement for ratification by the National Assembly.
The preparatory actions as regards entering into an Agreement on MiG-29-related repairs with the Republic of Poland commenced in February 2015 after a visit to Poland by a Bulgarian delegation led by Minister Nenchev, which presented a first opportunity to discuss the possibilities to enhance the military and technical cooperation between the two NATO Member States. In the course of the negotiations with the Polish Party, an Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Government of the Republic of Poland on Military Cooperation and a Letter of Intent between the Minister of National Defence of the Republic of Poland and the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Bulgaria concerning Cooperation in Armaments Area. The above documents were signed on the 28th of August 2015 during the official visit to Bulgaria by Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of National Defence Tomasz Siemoniak.
Over the course of several months, a draft of a Government-to-Government Agreement on the supply of logistic support for MiG-29 aircraft was elaborated. In early October, a working group from Bulgaria visited the Republic of Poland to finalise the text of the provisions of the Government-to-Government Agreement.
The Ministry of Defence has commenced coordination procedure with regard to a draft Bill on the Amendment and Supplement of the Republic of Bulgaria Defence and Armed Forces Act (DAFA) which will permit Allied aircraft, jointly with the Bulgarian Air Force, to carry out tasks related to the preservation of the integrity of Bulgarian airspace (Air Policing). Upon successful completion of the coordination procedure with regard to the draft Bill on the Amendment and Supplement of DAFA, the latter will be moved to the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria for consideration, and subsequently moved to the National Assembly for approval. The changes are so devised as to preclude any option that Air Policing be undertaken solely by forces and assets of foreign countries. The said changes guarantee that no Bulgarian sovereignty will be ceded to other countries.
The changes were necessitated by several reasons, all related to the need for enhancing the Air Policing capabilities of the countries across NATO’s Eastern Flank, including those of Bulgaria. At the Wales Summit in 2014, the Heads of State and Government of the Member States of the Alliance advised that there was a need to conduct a joint mission to enhance the Air Policing capabilities of the countries across NATO’s Eastern Flank. Such mission has been ongoing in the Baltic States since 2013, but it was augmented as a result of the Assurance Measures taken to guarantee the security of NATO’s Member States. Romania also heeded the Alliance’s recommendations and allied forces have been deployed in its territory since mid-2015. Bulgaria alone continues to carry out its duties related to the joint protection of NATO’s airspace – NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS) – on its own. The conduct of a joint Bulgarian Air Policing mission together with other NATO Member States is part of the assurance measures envisaged by NATO’s Readiness Action Plan with regard to guaranteeing the air sovereignty of the countries from the Alliance’s Eastern Flank. The measures include presence, on a rotational basis, of NATO’s forces and assets to be employed in joint exercises and trainings and enhancement of the existing national capabilities, aiming to improve the Allies’ interoperability and to demonstrate allied resolve, solidarity and mutual commitment to collective defence.
The decision will help Bulgaria’s combat aviation, contributing both in terms of improved capabilities, airmen’s training, and in terms of equipment. Thus, we will not allow any weakening of our capability to guarantee Bulgaria’s and NATO’s air sovereignty.