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Bulgaria - Air Force - History

Organizationally construction of Bulgarian aerial navigation begins in 1903. The established back then Balloon Activities Team evolves in 1906 into a combat unit to the railways battalion, called Aerial navigation detachment. In 1911, the government takes decision to prepare pilots and aeromechanics abroad, and to purchase aircraft, as a result of which in 1912 Bulgaria has its own airborne armada. On October 16th 1912, the first combat mission with the participation of an aircraft was accomplished as a result of which this date is considered to be the birthday of the military aviation of Bulgaria.

By the end of the Cold War air and air defense force units were rather evenly dispersed throughout the country. They operated approximately 300 combat aircraft, including over 160 MiG-21, 70 MiG-23, 40 Su-25, and 20 MiG-29 fighters and more than 100 L-29 and L-39 combat trainers. Two MiG fighter and three MiG interceptor regiments were operational. The air forces had two regiments of Mi-24 attack helicopters, two regiments of Mi-17, Mi-8, and Mi-2 multipurpose combat support helicopters, and one squadron of Mi-2 and Mi-8 transport helicopters. The air and air defense forces had over 22,000 personnel, about 75 percent of whom were conscripts.

The First Air Defense Division and Second Air Defense Division, deployed in Sofia and Burgas provinces respectively, were composed of two interceptor regiments with eighteen aircraft each. They operated Soviet-made MiG-21, MiG-23, and MiG-29 fighters. A third air defense division controlled the strategic air defense network of approximately 280 Soviet-made SA-2, SA-3, SA-5, and more modern SA-10 surface-to-air missile launchers dispersed at about thirty sites throughout the country. In 1991 the division probably had four regiments, each composed of several battalions. Battalions provided central command and control for as many as ten launchers, with each launcher corresponding to a battery.

The Tenth Composite Air Corps in central Bulgaria was the largest air formation. It had more than 225 aircraft. Its principal mission was to provide air support, tactical reconnaissance, and mobility for the ground forces. It had two fighter-bomber regiments, one fighter regiment, one reconnaissance aircraft regiment, and four helicopter regiments, as well as large numbers of radar, maintenance, and communications support units under its command. Its aircraft included MiG-21 and MiG-17 fighters and MiG23 and Su-25 fighter-bombers, Su-22, MiG-21, and MiG-25 reconnaissance variants, and over forty specialized Mi-24 attack helicopters and forty Mi-2, Mi-8, and Mi-17 combat and transport helicopters.

The Higher Aviation School of the air and air defense forces command also controlled two aviation training regiments and one aviation training squadron with over eighty L-29 and L-39 primary trainers and over eighty MiG-15, MiG-17, and MiG-21 armed combat trainers in northern Bulgaria. The Higher Aviation School also had a large number of logistics and other support units to train specialists for the service.







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