NATO opens aviation exercise in Bulgaria

Air forces from 14 NATO nations and eight NATO partners are taking part in the Cooperative Key 2005 joint aviation exercise in southern Bulgaria, the country's Defense Ministry announced Thursday.

During the 12-day run of the joint peacekeeping drills, air forces with limited ground support will intercede between fictional warring factions and perform mock rescue attempts.

The exercise, focused on helicopter aviation, includes live flying and tests the capability of the air forces of NATO and partner countries to work together. After Russian-Chinese war games NATO aviation exercise expected to be the year second biggest military training event.

Cooperative Key 2005 will include NATO units from Bulgaria, Canada, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey and the United States.

Following similar exercises in Bulgaria in 2001 and 2003, this year's exercise will include eight nations from NATO's Partnership for Peace program Azerbaijan, Croatia, Macedonia, Georgia, Moldova, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine, reports the AP.

According to Blackanthem, the main operating air bases will be Krumovo and Graf Ignatievo in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and the live flying will be conducted from 1 to 4 September.

A number of other countries are participating as observers.

Fostering cooperation

Cooperative Key, which has been conducted for a number of years, is one of a number of activities designed to enhance the capability of the forces of partner countries to work together with those of NATO countries.

Partner countries have made and continue to make significant contributions to NATO-led peacekeeping operations, for example in the Balkans and Afghanistan.

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