SOFIA -- Bulgaria says one of its MiG-29 aircraft has lost radio communication and disappeared from radars while taking part in military exercises over the Black Sea.
“A search and rescue operation was launched immediately and is still ongoing,” the Defense Ministry said on June 9, adding that the Shabla 21 drills involving live fire have been suspended.
Acting Defense Minister Georgi Panayotov later said that the area where the plane crashed had been located but not the aircraft itself.
Ships and helicopters were involved in the search and rescue operation, he said.
The cause of the incident, which the ministry said occurred at 12:45 a.m. local time, was not immediately known.
Panayotov said the pilot did not try to communicate with his base around the time of the accident, and it seems that he did not eject from the plane.
Two other Soviet-made MiG-29 aircraft belonging to NATO-member Bulgaria have crashed previously, in 1994 and in 2012.
In July 2019, Sofia gave the final green light to a $1.67 billion package deal to purchase eight multirole F-16 fighter jets from the United States -- the country's biggest military procurement since the fall of communism in the early 1990s.
The jets are expected to be delivered to Bulgaria in 2023 and 2024.