Bulgarian MiG-29 crashes into the Black Sea

A Bulgarski Voennovazdushni Sili (BVVS, Bulgarian Air Force)-operated Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 (NATO reporting name: Fulcrum) crashed into the Black Sea off the nation’s Shabla peninsula in the early hours of June 9.

The aircraft – serial unknown – had departed Graf Ingatrievo Air Base near the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv to participate in military drills under Exercise Szabla (Sabre) 21. Hosted by the Bulgarian military in association with the wider US-led Exercise Defender-Europe 21, Szabla is designed to further enhance the readiness and interoperability among NATO allies and partners.

Bulgarian MiG-29 [US Air National Guard/Master Sgt Andrew J Moseley]
A Bulgarian Air Force-operated two-seat MiG-29UB Fulcrum-B - serial 33 - takes off from Graf Ignatievo Air Base during Exercise Thracian Star on July 13, 2015. An as-yet unidentified Bulgarian single-seat example was lost in a fatal crash on June 9, 2021. US Air National Guard/Master Sgt Andrew J Moseley

Following its departure from Graf Ingatrievo, the MiG-29 crashed into the Black Sea off Bulgaria’s Shabla peninsula at approximately 0045hrs (local time). The pilot, Maj Valentin Dimitrov Terziev, was missing following the incident and could not be found immediately.

A search was conducted, but in a press conference the following day, the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence (MOD) revealed that the wreckage had been located. It added that some biological remains, and a lifejacket had also been found, indicating the pilot had probably not ejected and was most likely killed when the aircraft impacted the water.

AirForces Intelligence data states that, following this attrition case, Bulgaria’s Fulcrum fleet stands at 15 aircraft, comprising 12 single-seat MiG-29 Fulcrum-As and three MiG-29UB Fulcrum-Bs. These multi-role fighters are assigned to the air arm’s 2/3 Iztrebitelna Avio Eskadrila (2/3 IAE, 2/3 Fighter Squadron) at Graf Ignatievo Air Base. The nation has ordered eight Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 70/72 Fighting Falcons to replace its ageing MiG-29 fleet through the US Foreign Military Sales process.