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Bulgaria - Military Industry - Cold War

One of Bulgaria's prime contributions to the former Warsaw Pact was electronics development and production capability. By the end of the Cold War the Material-Technical and Rear Support Command had wide responsibility for logistical support to the BPA, ranging from routine supply operations to maintenance and arms procurement. Its base and depot network included petroleum-oil-lubricant (POL) depots, special fuel bases, POL and special fuel equipment maintenance battalions, central supply bases, food and general supply depots, central maintenance bases, central vehicle and armor-tank depots, vehicle and armor-tank maintenance bases, artillery depots, central artillery ammunition bases, and central missile maintenance bases.

One major directorate of the Material-Technical and Rear Support Command was responsible for military repair bases and factories. This directorate controlled general equipment repair factories, electro-mechanical factories, vehicle repair factories, and an institute for research and development in maintenance of weapons and equipment. In addition to this directorate, the command ran a military technology research institute, a laser technology laboratory, an electro-mechanical training equipment factory, a central artillery-technical test range, and a billeting service. It also operated several schools for maintenance specialist training.

Despite the range of these activities, Bulgaria produced relatively few of its own armaments and other combat equipment. Defense production plants were located in Gabrovo, Karlovo, Kazanluk, Plovdiv, Sofia, and Varna, but the vast majority of arms and equipment came from the Soviet Union, with smaller amounts from Poland and Czechoslovakia. The Zhivkov regime also occasionally purchased military equipment from at least three NATO members including the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany. The exact nature and amount of weapons systems produced for domestic use remained largely unknown during that period, however. The Tundzha mortar and a few types of armored combat vehicles were produced domestically. Bulgarian shipyards did not produce surface combat ships or submarines.

Following the lead of the Soviet Union, Bulgaria announced a major program of defense industry conversion in 1990. The section of the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Services responsible for arms production was renamed the Special Production and Conversion Department to reflect conversion to civilian manufacture. Bulgaria planned to convert an unspecified number of military plants and to require firms producing both military and civilian goods to double their output of the latter. By end of 1990, defense plants were required to produce a total of 246 million leva worth of nonmilitary goods, increasing to 394 million leva in 1991, and to 1,130 million leva by 1995.

In this period, their production mix was to change to 60 percent civilian and 40 percent military goods. Fully and partially converted military enterprises would manufacture textiles, capital equipment and machine tools, tractors and cultivators, durable consumer appliances, industrial and medical lasers, and canned food. The encouragement of joint ventures between Bulgarian and foreign firms was another element of the conversion program. Despite these changes in the defense industries, the government planned to retain complete authority over military production.







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