Inside Bulgaria's growingly obsolescent Air Defence force

Alexander Mladenov looks at the slow and often painful transformation of the Bulgarian Air Force’s air defence assets, while revealing humble plans to field Western-made hardware in the foreseeable future.

It has been almost 30 years since the Cold War officially ended, but the Bulgarski Voennovazdushni Sili (BVVS, Bulgarian Air Force) still relies on Soviet-era fighters, surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and early warning radars on active alert duty to maintain its sovereign air defence network.

Bulgarian MiG-29 takes off [Alexander Mladenov]
A BVVS MiG-29 takes off with a full missile loadout that includes two R-27R1s for BVR engagements and four highly agile R-73Es, which are useful for close-in combat and visual intercepts. Alexander Mladenov


Legacy Fulcrums

The BVVS currently retains a tiny fighter fleet of 11 non-upgraded, single-seat Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 Fulcrum-As and three two-seat MiG-29UB Fulcrum-Bs. Taken on strength in 1989-1990, these Soviet-era twin-engine, twin-tail fighters serve with one squadron, stationed to the north of Plovdiv – Bulgaria’s second-largest city, in the central part of the country.

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