Triple Nickel Back From Bulgaria

Some 250 airmen and 13 F-16s from the 555th Fighter Squadron at Aviano AB, Italy, have returned to their home base from a nearly month-long exercise in Bulgaria. During Nickel Javelin 2008, the Aviano team conducted training with Bulgarian air and ground forces, including pitting the F-16s against MiG-21 and MiG-29 fighters. “Training against these particular foreign fighter aircraft is a first-time experience for quite a few of our pilots and provided great training,” said Capt. Michael Roberson, assistant project officer for the exercise. The Aviano force flew daily air-to-air training sorties against the Bulgarian fighters and, then, would form up with the MiGs to provide a large airstrike package and conduct close air support. “The Bulgarians are spectacular in the air and were brought up on different training than they’re using right now in NATO,” said Lt. Col. Bob Winker, 555th FS commander. Instead of considering that as a problem, though, Winker said the exercise offered “unique opportunities to shape the way the Bulgarians train today and in the future.” (Aviano report by TSgt. Michael O’Connor)