Six F-16s from the 555th Fighter Squadron at Aviano Air Base in Italy arrived in Bulgaria Friday for training exercises with the Bulgarian, Greek and Romanian air forces.

Other airmen and units from U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa ― including airmen from the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing at Ramstein Air Base, about 150 airmen from the 555th, and additional Aviano airmen ― are also joining the 555th for Thracian Viper 20, USAFE said in a Friday release.

Thracian Viper, which began Friday and will run until Sept. 25, is a multilateral training exercise that aims to improve the allies' ability to work with and fight alongside Bulgaria, the release said. It is taking place at Graf Ignatievo Air Base in Bulgaria.

“The Triple Nickel’s participation in Thracian Viper will validate and refine our ability to closely integrate with other European air forces,” said Lt. Col. John Ryan, the Triple Nickel’s commander. “Integrating with our Bulgarian hosts and other partner nations both strengthens our relationships and yields more lethal fighting forces that are ready and able to conduct integrated operations when called upon.”

The 555th will conduct both air-to-air and air-to-ground training with the other partner nations taking part.

Stephen Losey covers leadership and personnel issues as the senior reporter for Air Force Times. He comes from an Air Force family, and his investigative reports have won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover Air Force operations against the Islamic State.

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