Home : News
NEWS | March 18, 2022

Swamp Fox maintenance hosts Bulgarian air force officers

By Capt. Stephen Hudson, 169th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. – Six Bulgarian air force maintenance officers spent two days with the 169th Maintenance Group discussing maintenance best practices as a part of a subject matter expert exchange.

Earlier in the week, the Bulgarian air force team visited the 134th Air Refueling Wing in Knoxville, Tennessee, discussing maintenance needs and best practices before arriving in South Carolina as a part of the State Partnership Program. 

The partnership between the Tennessee National Guard and the Bulgarian military is one of the original pairings, beginning in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union.

“It was an outstanding visit,” said Bulgarian air force Lt. Col. Lyudmil Valkov, chief of maintenance operations at Graf Ignatievo Air Base. “It was very informative and friendly.”

Valkov said team members got what they needed as the Bulgarian air force prepares to accept F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets.

The Bulgarian air force currently flies the MiG-29 and recently purchased eight F-16s as part of its modernization, with plans to buy another eight to establish a full squadron.

The South Carolina National Guard has a robust partnership with the Republic of Colombia that started in 2012. It frequently engages with the Colombian Air Force on aircraft maintenance and other lines of effort. Working with other states’ partners is not unique to the SCANG. Last year the 169th Maintenance Group assisted Illinois’ state partner, Poland, with maintenance needs related to their F-16 fleet.

“When the Tennessee National Guard reached out to ask for our assistance, we were happy to host,” said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Erin Chaney, 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent. 

“Although the Bulgarian air force maintenance officers only spent two days with our maintenance group, they maximized each minute by their level of engagement with our team,” Chaney said. “They asked tough questions and were genuinely interested to gain as much knowledge as they could to help with their transition from MiG-29s to F-16s. I am proud that our Swamp Fox maintainers got to play a small part by helping a NATO partner nation bed down their new Vipers.”

Over 28 years, Tennessee and Bulgaria have participated in more than 600 engagements focused on knowledge-sharing and joint training. They have included cyber defense, noncommissioned officer development, combat interoperability, base defense and combat medical skills.

The SPP pairs the National Guard in the states, territories and the District of Columbia with America’s security partners and allies, forging and sustaining enduring partnerships that result in military-to-military, military-to-civilian and civilian-to-civilian cooperation. The SPP helps America meet its national security objectives through enduring relationships with partners and allies.