Defence Minister: Our Primary Concern is the Life of the Airmen

The main concern of the leadership of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Bulgarian Army is to ensure a good quality of life for the service members, decent pay and working conditions, and equipment of sufficient quality, so that the Armed Forces are able to fulfil their constitutionally assigned duties. This is what Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov said to journalists today, October 24th, as regards training flights at Graf Ignatievo Airbase.

“Yes, the aviation does have problems and you know very well what our position is: we are going to undertake the task of simultaneously overhauling and modernizing the existing aircraft, and at the same we are going to proceed to purchasing a new type of fighter aircraft,”

said the Defence Minister.

He made it clear that at his meeting earlier today with Graf Ignatievo Airbase Commander Brig. Gen. Ivan Lalov and Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Tsanko Stoykov, the issue of MiG-29 engines delivered under the Contract entered into by and between the MoD and Aviostart OOD in November 2016 was brought up.

“We want full respect of the obligations as per the contract signed, because our main concern is the life of the airmen. We cannot risk accepting some engines without full and accurate fulfilment of all contractual obligations, lest a fatal accident should happen. The army’s most valuable assets are its people,”

Minister Karakachanov asserted.

He pointed out that over the six months for which the current Government has been in power, he has been making efforts to solve the problems in the Armed Forces with regard to all three services. The new projects on the modernization of the Air Force, the Navy, and the Land Forces, as well the earmarking of 100 million Bulgarian lev to raise the pay of the service members are proof of the desire to motivate the personnel by decent salaries and new equipment which will enable them to improve their skills, thus enhancing the capabilities of the Bulgarian Army.

“I cannot accept allegations of strikes and turbulence. The Armed Forces are not a kindergarten and no one, be it within the Air Force or the other Armed Forces services, has ever considered such actions,”

declared Minister Karakachanov. He pointed out that the case would be exploited for political speculations but “what the Leadership of the Ministry of Defence will further is guaranteeing the airworthiness of the aircraft as human life is of first and foremost value.”

Brigadier General Ivan Lalov, Commander of 3rd Graf Ignatievo Airbase stated that he and his colleagues categorically distance themselves from words like “riot”. “The flight crews do not defy. The flight crew has the right, each one pilot, when they don’t feel confident in their ability to implement a task, to report to the commander and hold back from performing the mission. As we are carrying out training flights and are not in a state of war, it so happened that on that day the flight crew to take over the planned daily shift felt unable to perform the tasks, reported the situation and we cancelled flights. Such are the rules in aviation. Yet, service members take off and sometimes they don’t come back,” he added.

In his words, specifically Graf Ignatievo Airbase has many serious problems with the aviation equipment operability.

“To be able to train the pilots, we need sufficient number of airworthy assets, capable of performing regular flights and implementing their missions. Despite the few flight hours we avail of, the flight crews train and continue to be on Air Policing alerts and perform joint flights with their Italian colleagues,”

he emphasized.

Source: MoD | Photo: © MoD