COOPERATIVE KEY 2005 - Exercise bases Graf Ignatievo and Krumovo
From the 24th of August through the 5th of September 2005
(with live flying taking place August 27 through September 4)
The multinational exercise is designed to enhance interoperability of NATO and partner nation air forces through cooperation and familiarization of the organization's procedures. Cooperative Key, first conducted in 1996, is designed as a combination air exercise, command post and live exercise. Allied Component Command headquarters Izmir is conducting the exercise.
"This exercise affords us a great opportunity to practice peace support operations in a combined scenario," said Lt. Col. Jim Fike, NATO medical exercise director and 401st Expeditionary Medical Squadron commander. “It’s a chance for our people, no matter what their rank or specialty, to work with their counterparts from other nations and gain invaluable experience while bolstering our NATO capabilities.
“In any exercise you get unit and individual training, but on a bigger scale is the ability to exercise in a larger coalition environment,” Colonel Fike said. “It’s a chance for operators to find out things that are and aren’t compatible.”
The exercise primarily takes place at two air bases in the central region of Bulgaria -- Graf Ignatievo and Krumovo. The scenario, involving about 1,650 servicemembers and more than 60 aircraft, focuses on an ongoing mandated NATO peace support operation. Two fictional former warring factions are in an unstable peace. A NATO-led peace support operation with partner nation participation is in place to enforce the peace and provide humanitarian assistance.
Besides to the 21 participating nations, nine other nations will act as observers. For several of the nations, this is their first time participating in this exercise since becoming members of NATO.
“Bulgaria has the honor for the third time to (hold) the international exercise Cooperative Key. This is a clear expression for us of the successful integration processes in the international security system,” said Bulgarian air force Maj. Gen. Simeon Simeonov, Bulgarian air force headquarters chief of staff. “The exercise is a high responsibility for us being a full NATO member. Such exercises are very useful for everyone and they are a step forward to close relations and friendship among our countries.”
Bulgaria - (An-26, MiG-21bis, MiG-29A/UB, L-39ZA, Su-25K/UBK, Mi-17, Mi-24V and PC-9)
Greece - (opposition aircraft: A-7s from homebase Araxos)
Hungary - (Mi-17)
Latvia - (Mi-8MTV-1)
Lithuania - (Mi-8MTV-1 and An-26B)
Poland - (Mi-8RL)
Romania - (IAR-330SOCAT and C-130B)
Slovenia - (PC-9M and AS532AL)
Turkey - (AS532AL and F-16s from homebase as opposition aircraft)
USA - (HH-60G Pave Hawk from 56RQS)
Partnership for Peace (PfP) members
Croatia - (Mi-8MTV-1)
Macedonia - (Mi-17/Mi-24V)
Moldovia - (Mi-8MTV-1)
Ukraine - (IL-76MD)
Mediterranean Dialogue partners
Visit of NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
At Krumovo Air Base preparations were also made for the visit of NATO's Secretary General Mr. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. This visit of the Secretary General can be seen as a reward for good performances of the hosting nation and was much appreciated. After the welcoming under severe safety measures there was a visit to a refugee camp and a military hospital with actions took place under the eyes of Mr. de Hoop Scheffer. It is quite an experience, to see all these different nations working together bringing in victims and wounded of all kinds by several helicopters. At certain moment a mass of ´refugees´ was flown in. The Romanian C-130B Hercules landed on the runway delivering refugees to the base which where brought to the refugee camp to be distributed over the tents in the camp. At the same time the air was noisy with approaching helicopters. A pair of Lithuanian and Hungarian Mi-17 brought in refugees and wounded people followed by a pair of Moldovan and Bulgarian Mi-8/17 and a pair of Slovenian and Turkish Cougars. The medical people in the medic camp took care of the wounded very fast but still with grate care. In this way interoperability was shown to the Secretary General while dedicated people showed the best they could.
Afterwards the Secretary General complimented every single participant senior standing up in a line with a personal word.
We thank "Allied Component Command headquarters Izmir" for their great support to make these visits possible. The hospitality at Graf Ignatievo and Krumovo was great. We have forgotten the names of all the persons who have helped us with all our wishes, everything was possible and done very friendly.
The authors: Volkert Jan van den Berg, Marinus Dirk Tabak and Joop de Groot.
(Click on photo to enlarge it)
A mix of Bulgarian fighters started their missions from Graf Ignatievo. Three MiG-29A/UB fighters were defending the sky above the area of operation while other aircraft (MiG-21bis and L-39ZA) where acting in the attack role, as well as Combat Air Patrol (CAP). Fighter bomber operations where conducted by 5 Su-25K/UBK Frogfoot" attack planes. These Su-25 are examples of the very last few in Europe and watching the start and landings of this aircraft is a treat.
An important type of operations to gain experience are the Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) operations which are refined by those who experienced war time situations. Such operations are vital to recover pilots or other persons from behind enemy lines and are much wanted to practice by most of the participants. For example some Romanian SOCAT Puma's and Bulgarian Mi-24 Hind's or a Hind from the FYROM (Macedonia) or Polish/Hungarian armed Mi-17 Hip's could approach the landing zone fully armed and are special suited for this type of operations. The transported soldiers can be of other nations. Although you may not describe the operations as a contest it can show painfully where you are standing. Both strength or weakness can be recognized and one can learn to improve their own capacities.
As reported the fighters were supplied by Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey while helicopters took part in the exercise from Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Moldova, FYROM, Turkey and the USA operating from Graf Ignatievo as did the observation aircraft from Slovenia.
All operated from Graf Ignatievo and parked at the north-side of the base.
Operated from Graf Ignatievo Air Base.
Transports from Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Moldova and the Ukraine were located at Krumovo Air Base.