A Bulgarian air force RSK MiG-29UB twin-seat fighter crashed on 26 April while taking part in bilateral training exercise Thracian Star 2012 with US forces.

About 10m-long (33ft) flames appeared from the aircraft's tail section in the area around its engines immediately after take-off from Graf Ignatievo air base near Plovdiv, while accompanied by a second MiG-29.

The aircraft remained airborne for less than 1min, during which time its crew directed it towards an open field before ejecting. The fighter went out of control and crashed 1.5km (0.8nm) east of the village of Golyam Chardak.

A Bulgarian air force Eurocopter AS532AL Cougar transport helicopter recovered the pilots and took them to a military hospital in Plovdiv. One sustained slight injuries, while the other suffered spinal compression fractures, which were not life-threatening, from the ejection.

 Dead MiG-29 - USAF

© US Air Force

The crashed MiG-29UB, as pictured during the exercise on 19 April

The crashed fighter - which had been carrying the registration '11' - had flown only 757h since being delivered new in March 1989. An initial investigation into its loss is expected to conclude by mid-May.

Bulgaria had a fleet of 16 MiG-29s prior to the crash, as recorded by Flightglobal's MiliCAS database: 14 singe-seat As and two twin-seat UB-model trainers. Its surviving examples are expected to remain in use until at least 2020, with the process of selecting a replacement yet to begin.

The air force's Mikoyan MiG-21 (below) fleet is scheduled to be retired by the end of this year, with its last Sukhoi Su-25s to leave service in 2013.

 MiG-21 Bulgaria - USAF

© US Air Force

US Air Force assets assigned to the Thracian Star manoeuvres include Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters from Aviano air base, Italy.

Source: Flight International