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Bulgaria - Navy - Cold War

By the end of the Cold War the navy defended approximately 350 kilometers of coastline along the Black Sea. Its major bases were located at Varna (the headquarters), Atiya, Sozopol, Balchik, and Burgas. Naval forces included over twenty submarines and minor surface combatants that could be deployed in coastal defense operations. As recently as 1989, Bulgarian naval forces defended claims to their territorial waters in incidents with Turkish forces at sea. As in the case of the ground forces, the Ministry of National Defense announced some unilateral naval reductions in 1990. In all, five vessels were to be retired or sold abroad: two submarine chasers, two coastal patrol boats, and one submarine. They were basically obsolete and had little residual military value. This deletion was more than balanced by the addition of three Soviet Poti-class corvettes to the operational inventory. In 1990 the navy had about 10,000 personnel, half of them conscripts.

The navy had four components, the Black Sea Fleet, Danube Flotilla, Coastal Defense, and a shore establishment. The Black Sea Fleet was organized into submarine, escort ship, missile and torpedo boat, amphibious craft, and minesweeping squadrons and brigades. The Danube Flotilla operated patrol craft along the riverine border with Romania. Coastal Defense included amphibious landing and mine countermeasures forces. The shore establishment controlled naval bases, training facilities, and naval aviation, coastal artillery, and naval infantry units.

Bulgaria obtained its minor surface combatant crafts from the Soviet Union. Its main forces consisted of four Pobeda-class submarines, two Druzki-class frigates, five Poti-class corvettes, six Osa-class missile patrol boats, six Shershen-class torpedo boats, and three SO-1-class and seven Zhuk-class patrol craft. The navy received its Pobeda- (formerly Romeo-) class submarines from the Soviet Union beginning in 1972. Originally built in the 1950s, they were armed with eight 533mm torpedo tubes. The Druzki- (formerly Riga-) class frigates were built in 1957 and 1958. They were modernized extensively during the early 1980s. They had three 100mm guns, three 533mm torpedo tubes, and four five-tube antisubmarine rocket launchers.

The navy acquired its first three Poti-class corvettes from the Soviet Union in 1975 and another three in 1990. These were lightly armed antisubmarine warfare platforms carrying four 406mm torpedo tubes and two antisubmarine rocket launchers. The Osa-class missile patrol boats carried four SS-N-2 surface-to-surface missile launchers. The Soviet Union built them in the 1960s and first transferred them to Bulgaria in the early 1970s. The Shershen-class torpedo boats had four 533mm torpedo tubes and were built and acquired at approximately the same time as the Osa-class boats.

The navy operated more than thirty mine-warfare countermeasures ships, including four modern Soviet-built Sonya-class oceangoing minesweepers acquired in the early 1980s. The other minesweepers, including the Vanya-class, Yevgenya-class, and several miscellaneous ships, were restricted to coastal or inshore operations.

The Bulgarian Navy has a significant short-range amphibious lift capability consisting of 23 Soviet Vydra-class medium landing craft, each of which could carry 100 troops and 250 tons of equipment on their open tank decks. The inventory also included two Polish-built Polnocny-class medium landing ships. These amphibious ships each could transport and land six tanks and 150 troops.

Naval aviation, coastal artillery, and naval infantry were small support arms of the navy. Naval aviation consisted of one squadron of three armed and nine unarmed search-and-rescue and antisubmarine warfare helicopters. These Mi-14, Mi-8, Mi-4, and Mi2 naval helicopters were obtained from the Soviet Union. Coastal artillery had two regiments with about 150 guns of 100mm or 130mm caliber. They were organized into several battalions with five batteries each. Coastal artillery units also operated an unknown number of Soviet SS-C-1 and more modern SSC-3 antiship missile launchers. Their mission was to direct fire against combatants offshore supporting amphibious assaults on the Bulgarian coastline. The naval infantry force consisted of three companies of 100 troops each. Their small size limited them to guard duty and ground defense of important coastal installations against commando raids and other assault forces.

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