In March 2016, one of Military Aviation Reachout’s members was invited to visit Vrazhdebna Air Base, the military side of Sofia International Airport. Vrazhdebna Air Base is home to the 16th Transport Squadron of the Bulgarian Air Force.
During this visit, our member was able to photograph several assets both inside the maintenance hangar and on the apron. Apart from photography, our member had the opportunity to get some brief information regarding the history of Vrazhdebna Air Base and all assets that are based at this base.
Vrazhdebna is the original name of Sofia Airport and was built in 1937 as a training base, hosting military fighter aircraft from the Luftwaffe back in 1941 during World War 2. It was named from a nearby village of Vrazhdebna, now a suburb of Sofia. In 1994, a separate military base was established in Vrazhdebna, the 16th Transport Air Base, home of the 16th Transport Squadron.
During the visit, our member was able to photograph four LET L-410 Turbolet aircraft, wearing serial numbers: “066”, “067”, “068” and “069”. All aircraft seemed to be in an airworthy condition, although information whether or not these aircraft are airworthy was not provided. Deliveries of the LET-410’s started in 1994.
Two colorful Antonov AN-26’s were also photographed on the apron, wearing serial numbers “070” and “087”, the latter being the only AN-26 from the two operational at that time. Delivery of the AN-26s to the Bulgarian Air Force, started in 1984 and a total of five aircraft were delivered in the same year. At the time, these aircraft were the back bone of the transport squadron in the Bulgarian Air Force.
In late 2007, the Bulgarian Air Force received the first of three Alenia C-27J Spartans. Originally, a total of five Spartans were ordered in 2006, but the order was reduced to three in 2010. The C-27J will now be the back bone of Bulgaria’s transport squadron, taking the main role from the ageing AN-26’s. During the visit, two of the three Spartans were on base, hangered and receiving scheduled maintenance. As a result, not many photographic opportunities were available. Serial numbers for both C-27s are “071” and “072”.
Another very interesting asset was the Antonov AN-30, a dedicated photomapping aircraft operating for the ‘Open Skies” role. This AN-30 with serial number “055” was photographed outside on the apron and was receiving light maintenance on both of it’s engines. The “Open Skies” treaty entered into force on January 1st, 2002 and currently has 35 countries participating in this treaty. It establishes a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants. The treaty is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern to them. Open Skies is one of the most wide-ranging international efforts to date promoting openness and transparency of military forces and activities.
By far the most interesting asset on base, was the AN-2, wearing serial number “027”. Over eighty AN-2s were reported to be delivered to Bulgaria from 1952 onwards to be used by the air force and other agencies across the nation. In the first few years, all AN-2s arrived from the USSR and from 1958 onwards, all AN-2’s were delivered from the polish production line and East Germany. These aircraft are mainly used for paratroop training and other missions.
This brought an end to our visit to Vrazhdebna Air Base. Thank you to all people who made this visit possible and for the warm welcome on base. We hope that Military Aviation Reachout will be able to visit this airbase again in the future.