Bulgarian military plane falls into sea during exercise

June 9, 2021Updated: June 9, 2021 7:56 a.m.

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) – A Bulgarian Air Force plane crashed in the Black Sea during a military exercise and the pilot is missing, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday.

The plane, a Soviet-made MiG-29, disappeared from radar at 12:45 am local time over the country’s territorial waters, the ministry said. He added that a search and rescue operation was launched immediately and was continuing, but the status of the pilot is unknown.

The reasons for the accident are unclear, but military officials suspended the Shabla 2021 drill.

Two other MiG-29s belonging to Bulgaria crashed in 1994 and 2012.

Since joining the NATO military alliance in 2004, Bulgaria has tried to replace its fleet of Soviet-made Mig-29s, but financial problems have caused several delays.

The Balkan country signed an agreement in 2019 to purchase eight F-16 military jets from US firm Lockheed Martin as part of efforts to align its air force with NATO standards. The first is scheduled to be delivered in 2023.

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