Military of Bulgaria

The Bulgarian Army represents the Armed Forces of the Republic of Bulgaria. Commander-in-Chief is the President of Bulgaria Georgi Parvanov. The Ministry of Defense is in charge of political leadership while military command remains in the hands of the General Staff, headed by the Chief of Staff. Operational elements of the Bulgarian Army include: Bulgarian Land Forces (army), Bulgarian Navy (navy), and the Bulgarian Air Forces (air force).

The patron saint of the Bulgarian Army is St. George, and Valor Day (May 6, also known as St. George's Day) has long been celebrated as Valor and Army Day. It is an official holiday in Bulgaria.

After the country became a NATO member in April 2004, the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense has begun a new downsizing, modernization, and reform program (known as PLAN 2004) that will result in the adoption of a smaller force structure of around 50,000 personnel, based upon a rapid reaction force and two additional corps headquarters, all with subordinate brigades. As of 1 January 2008 the military of Bulgaria is to disband its compulsory military service .

History of the Bulgarian Army

Major conflicts in modern history of Bulgaria:

  • Serbo-Bulgarian War 1885, Serbo-Bulgarian War
  • Balkan Wars 1912-1913, Balkan Wars
  • World War I, World War I
  • Between World Wars, Bulgaria Between World Wars
  • World War II, World War II
  • Current missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

For information on military conflicts in the more distant past see History of Bulgaria

General Staff

The Bulgarian Armed Forces are Headquartered in Sofia, where most of the general staff is based. Currently headed by Chief of Staff General Zlatan Kirilov Stoykov, the General Staff is responsible for operational command of the Bulgarian Army and its 3 major branches. Deputies: Vice Admiral Petar Petrov, General Atanas Zaprianov, General Dimitar Zehtinov.

Chief commanders:

  • Land Forces: Major General Ivan Dobrev
  • Air Force: Major General Simeon Simeonov
  • Naval Forces: Rear admiral Minko Kavaldziev

Land Forces

The Land Forces are functionally divided into Active and Reserve Forces. Their main functions include deterrence, defense, peace support and crisis management, humanitarian and rescue missions, as well as social functions within Bulgarian society.

The Active Forces mainly have peacekeeping and defensive duties, and are further divided into Deployment Forces, Immediate Reaction, and Main Defense Forces. The Reserve Forces consists of Enhancement Forces, Territorial Defense Forces, and Training Grounds. They deal with planning and reservist preparation, armaments and equipment storage, training of formations for active forces rotation or increase in personnel.

During peacetime the Land Forces maintain permanent combat and mobilization readiness. They become part of multinational military formations in compliance with international treaties Bulgaria is a signatory to, participate in the preparation of the population, the national economy and the maintenance of wartime reserves and the infrastructure of the country for defense.

In times of crisis the Land Forces' main tasks relate to participation in operations countering terrorist activities and defense of strategic facilities (such as nuclear power plants and major industrial facilities), assisting the security forces in proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, illegal armaments traffic and international terrorism.

In case of low- and medium-intensity military conflict the Active Forces that are part of the Land Forces participate in carrying out the initial tasks for the defense of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country.

In case of a military conflict of high intensity the Land Forces, together with the Air Force and the Navy, form the defense group of the Bulgarian Army aiming at countering aggression and protection of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country.

The Bulgarian Land Forces are scheduled to become fully professional by 1st of January 2008, bringing an end to mandatory military service. The Bulgarian Air Force and Naval Forces are already fully professional.

Bulgarian Land Forces Training Operation.
Bulgarian BMP-23 in Iraq.
Bulgarian T-72 Tank at a parade in Sofia.

National guard unit

The National guard unit of Bulgaria is successor of the personal guards of knyaz Alexander I, founded in 1879. On 12 July the guards escort the bulgarian knyaz for the first time. That's why 12 July is the official holiday of the National guard unit. Throughout the years the structure of the guards has changed from convoy to squadron, regiment and after 1942 - division. Today it includes military units for army salute and wind orchestra.

In 2001 the National guard unit is approved for official military unit of the bulgarian army and one of the symbols of the state authority along with the flag, the coat of arms and the national anthem.

Inventory of the Bulgarian armed forces:

Infantry weapons :

* automatic weapons : AK-47
* 200 antitank missiles AT-3, AT-4, AT-5
Tanks :

* 432 tanks T-72
* 300 tanks T-55
Armored vehicles :

* 60 BRDM-1 to BRDM-2
* 114 BMP-2 to BMP-3
* 80 BMP-1
* 618 BTR-60
* 900 MT-LB
Artillery :

* 218 multiple-launch rocket system BM-21 -- 122 mm
* 205 cannons D-20 -- 152 mm
* 193 cannons M-30 -- 122 mm
* 687 self-propelled howitzers 2S1 Gvozdika -- 122 mm
* 68 self-propelled howitzers SU-100 -- 100 mm
* 359 self-propelled guns 2S11 -- 120 mm

Change of the guards



The navy has been largely overlooked in the reforms that the Bulgarian armed forces had to go through in order to comply with NATO standards, mostly because of the great expense involved and the fact that naval assaults are not considered to be a great concern for the country's security. That is why three of the four combat submarines (excluding Slava) are now docked and have been out of operation for some time. Only the more modern frigates, corvettes and missile crafts are on active duty.

In order to meet at least some of the NATO requirements, in 2005 the Bulgarian government bought from Belgium a Wielingen-class frigate, the BNS Wandelaar (F-912) (built in 1977), and after being renamed to the BG Druzki the frigate serves as the flagship of the Bulgarian Navy. In 2006, following a decision of the Bulgarian Parliament, Druzki took part in the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL), patrolling the territorial waters of Lebanon under German command. This was the first time ever the Bulgarian Navy took part in an international peacekeeping operation. The Bulgarian government plans to purchase a second Wielingen-class frigate and at least four french state of the art Gowind 200 corvettes, preferably built in Bulgaria by Armaris,a joint company of the French DCN and Thales Group. According to the Ministry of Defense, the Bulgarian Navy should have at least one new corvette by 2010.

The Bulgarian Navy is centered in two main bases. One is near the city of Varna. The other is Atiya, near the city of Bourgas.

Wielingen class frigate. F911 Westdiep - sistership of F912 Wandelaar (Bulgarian "Drazki")

Naval Aircraft inventory

At this time the Navy's only aircraft comprise 12 Mil Mi-14PL helicopters for anti-submarine patrol, search and rescue, and other naval support tasks located near Varna . 6 Eurocopter Panther are expected to enter service in the near future.

Air Force

In the past decade Bulgaria has been trying actively to restructure its army as a whole and a lot of attention has been placed on keeping the aging Russian aircraft operational. Currently the attack and defence branches of the Bulgarian air force are comprised mainly of MIG-21s, MIG-29s and Su-25s. There are also several Su-22s, used primary for surveillance purposes. About 16 MiG-29 fighters are being modernized in order to meet NATO standards and until now everything is going according to plan (7 jets will be ready by September 2007). In about 2 years time the government intends to purchase 16 modern jet fighters but due to the lack of funding the procedure of choosing the best alternative could prolong itself. The main competitors are expected to be Eurofighter, Dassault Rafale, JAS 39 Gripen, F-15 and F-18. In 2006 the Bulgarian government signed a contract with Alenia Aeronautica for the delivery of five C-27J Spartan transport aircraft in order to replace the old soviet made An-24 and An-26. The first Spartan is expected to arrive in year 2007 and the remaining four until 2011.

Modern EU-made transport helicopters were purchased in 2005 and until now 3 have arrived. In 2-3 years the Bulgarian Air Force will have 12 Eurocopter Cougar helicopters (8 attack and 4 transport), and the Navy - 6 Eurocopter Panther. Until then the Bulgarian Air force would have to rely on the Mi-24s and Mi-17s. Recently, the Ministry of Defense terminated the contract with Elbit Systems for modernizing 12 Mi-24 and 6 Mi-17 helicopters.

Branches of the airforce include: fighter aviation, assault aviation, intelligence aviation and transportation aviation, aid defense troops, radio-technical troops, communications troops, radio-technical support troops, logistics and medical troops.

Bulgarian MiG-29. Bulgarian Eurocopter Cougar arriving at Krumovo Air Base
Bulgarian Su25