Monday 14 August 2023

Modernisation On A Budget: Bulgaria’s Arms Acquisitions

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
Bulgaria finds itself in a challenging economic position as the poorest country within the European Union. This economic struggle has had a notable impact on the country's efforts to modernise its armed forces. Insufficient funding has hindered Bulgaria's attempts to bring its military capabilities up to contemporary (NATO) standards, resulting in an inventory that bears a striking resemblance to that of the Bulgarian Army of the 1980s. As per former Minister of Defence Dimitar Stoyanov, the country's delay in modernising its armed forces has resulted in a current financial requirement amounting to some 3-4% of the nation's GDP to bring the military up to modern standards. [1]
Though the allocation of such resources appears distant at present, the Bulgarian Armed Forces are set to finally welcome a number of new weapons systems in the upcoming years. Most notably, the Bulgarian Air Force will receive 16 F-16V Block 70 fighter aircraft to replace its aging fleet of MiG-29 and Su-25 combat aircraft while the Bulgarian Navy will welcome two MMPV 90 corvettes from Germany. In 2023, the Bulgarian Army received 44 T-72M/M1s that were upgraded by the state-owned company TEREM and Elbit from Israel in a contract worth over €40 million. [2]

The Bulgarian Armed Forces have identified a number of acquisition projects to be of top priority, including the procurement of air-surveillance radars to enhance the capabilities of the new F-16s. Additionally, the MoD is seeking to acquire 180+ Stryker IFVs and APCs, 155mm SPGs and new SAM systems. These acquisitions are to be financed through installment payments spanning up to 15 years. [3] Bulgaria has also expressed an interest in acquiring the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 and Akıncı UCAVs, with the goal of rectifying the current deficiencies in their UAV capabilities.

This article attempts to list equipment acquisitions by the Bulgarian Army, Air Force and Navy. This list focuses on heavy weaponry and doesn't include ATGMs, MANPADS, small arms, command vehicles, engineering equipment, trucks, radars and ammunition. Mid-Life Updates (MLUs) are only included when they contribute to enhancing the weapons system's operational capabilities. This list will be updated as new acquisitions are reported.

Army - Sukhopŭtni Voĭski Na Bŭlgariya

Infantry Fighting Vehicles

Specialised Armoured Vehicles


  • Missing flag.png Programme To Acquire 155mm Self-Propelled Guns

Air Force - Voennovazdushni Sili

Fighter Aircraft


Unmanned (Combat) Aerial Vehicles

Air Defence Systems

  • Missing flag.png Programme To Acquire Medium-To-Long Range Surface-To-Air Missile Systems

Navy - Voennomorski Sili Na Republika Balgariya

Frigates (Future Quantity: 2 Or 3)

  • Modernisation Of 2 Or 3 Wielingen-Class Frigates With New Weapons Systems And Combat Systems [To commence in the mid-to-late 2020s]

Corvettes (Future Quantity: 2)

  • 2 MMPV 90s [To be delivered in 2025 and 2026]


Submarines (Future Quantity: 2)

  • Missing flag.png Programme To Acquire 2 Secondhand Submarines (To reinstate Bulgaria's submarine service after the retirement of the last Romeo-class submarines in 2011)

Coastal Defence Missile Systems

  • Missing flag.png Programme To Acquire New Coastal Defence Missile Systems (To replace the 4K51 Rubezh)

[1] The modernization of the Bulgarian army requires 3-4% of country's GDP
[3] Modernization program of the Bulgarian army is not financially secure: Defence Minister

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