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In this undated file photo, the crew of a Russian Antonov An124-100 aircraft load up a stack of trailers in support of the 492nd Fighter Squadron’s deployment to Bulgaria at RAF Lakenheath, England.

In this undated file photo, the crew of a Russian Antonov An124-100 aircraft load up a stack of trailers in support of the 492nd Fighter Squadron’s deployment to Bulgaria at RAF Lakenheath, England. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)

In this undated file photo, the crew of a Russian Antonov An124-100 aircraft load up a stack of trailers in support of the 492nd Fighter Squadron’s deployment to Bulgaria at RAF Lakenheath, England.

In this undated file photo, the crew of a Russian Antonov An124-100 aircraft load up a stack of trailers in support of the 492nd Fighter Squadron’s deployment to Bulgaria at RAF Lakenheath, England. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)

An aircraft crewmember tightens down a stack of trailers before deployment.

An aircraft crewmember tightens down a stack of trailers before deployment. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)

RAF LAKENHEATH, England — The 240-foot wingspan of a Russian Antonov An124-100 aircraft dominated the flight line Tuesday, while crewmembers and airmen loaded it with equipment in support of the 492nd Fighter Squadron’s deployment to Bulgaria.

About 150 airmen from the 492nd deployed to the Balkan country early Tuesday morning to take part in a two-week training event, dubbed Exercise Immediate Response, which will give the American airmen a chance to work alongside their Bulgarian counterparts.

Troops from the 1st Armored Division, U.S. European Command and the Romanian military will also take part in the tri-lateral exercise, according to a 1st AD press release.

Roughly 800 military and civilian personnel are to be involved in the exercise, which will incorporate a variety of ground vehicles and aircraft, the release said.

Ten F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jets from the 492nd are slated to fly to Bulgaria later this week for the exercise, which kicks off July 19.

Lt. Col. Troy Stone, commander of the squadron’s deployed forces, said he looks forward to training with the Bulgarians.

“Most of our aircrews haven’t seen or flown with a MiG-29 or MiG-21, so it’s a good opportunity for the young aircrews to actually see the aircraft we typically train against,” he said.

Stone said that the squadron plans to test-fire laser-guided and general-purpose weapons at a Bulgarian range, as well as conduct air-to-air training with the Bulgarian MiG-29 and -21 aircraft.

The 492nd aircrews are currently awaiting permission on whether they will be allowed to pilot a MiG aircraft as part of the exercise, Stone added.


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