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The Bulgarian Navy (Bulgarian: Военноморски сили на Република България, Voennomorski sili na Republika Bǎlgariya) is the navy of the Republic of Bulgaria and forms part of the Bulgarian Armed Forces. It has been largely overlooked in the reforms that Bulgaria had to go through in order to comply with NATO standards, mostly because of the great expense involved and the fact that naval assaults are not considered to be a great concern for the country's security.[citation needed] That is why three of the four Romeo-class submarines (excluding Slava) are now docked and have been out of operation for some time. The last one was decommissioned in November 2011.[1] Only the more modern frigates, corvettes and missile crafts are on active duty.

Bulgarian Navy
Военноморски сили на Република България
Voennomorski sili na Republika Bǎlgariya
Naval Ensign of Bulgaria.svg
Ensign of the Bulgarian Navy
Active13 January 1899 – present
(120 years, 7 months)
Country Bulgaria
BranchBulgarian Armed Forces
Size4,100 personnel (2009)
Part ofMinistry of Defence
Anniversaries9 August
EngagementsFirst Balkan War
Second Balkan War
World War I
World War II
Rear Admiral Rumen Nikolov
Naval EnsignNaval Ensign of Bulgaria.svg
Naval JackNaval Jack of Bulgaria.svg
Coastguard EnsignCoastguard Ensign of Bulgaria.svg
Флаг на командващия на Българските Военноморски сили
Flag of the Commander of Bulgarian Navy

In order to meet some of the NATO requirements, the Bulgarian government purchased a Wielingen-class frigate from Belgium in 2005. BNS Wandelaar (F-912), built in 1977, was renamed BG Drazki. That same year the Bulgarian ship Smeli took part as a full NATO member for the first time in NATO OAE (Operation Active Endeavour). In 2006, following a decision of the Bulgarian National Assembly, Drazki deployed as part of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL), patrolling the territorial waters of Lebanon under German command. This was the first time the Bulgarian Navy took part in an international peacekeeping operation. The Bulgarian government purchased two Wielingen-class frigates and one Tripartite-class minehunter in 2007.

The Bulgarian Navy is centred in two main bases. One is near the city of Varna. The other is Atiya Naval Base, near the city of Burgas.


Operational historyEdit

First Balkan WarEdit

The Bulgarian Navy's first combat action was the 1912 Battle of Kaliakra during the First Balkan War, when the Bulgarian torpedo boat Drazki attacked and crippled an Ottoman cruiser.

Second Balkan WarEdit

The Bulgarian Navy scuttled its four Danube gunboats during the Second Balkan War, probably to avoid capture by the invading Romanian Army.[2] The four gunboats were 400-600-ton vessels, with a top speed of 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph) and armed with two-to-four 75 mm (3 in) guns and two-to-four 47 mm (1.9 in) guns. They were still present on the Bulgarian Navy list in August 1916.[3]

World War IEdit

When Bulgaria entered World War I in 1915, its navy consisted mainly of a French-built torpedo gunboat called Nadezhda and six torpedo boats. It mainly engaged in mine warfare actions in the Black Sea against the Russian Black Sea Fleet and allowed the Germans to station two U-boats at Varna, one of which came under Bulgarian control in 1916 as Podvodnik No. 18. Russian mines sank one Bulgarian torpedo boat and damaged one more during the war.[4]

World War IIEdit

Bulgarian Navy during World War II
Part of the Black Sea campaigns (1941-44)
Bulgarian sailors aboard torpedo boat Drazki
Date1941 - 1944
Bulgarian Black Sea coast
Result Soviet victory
  Soviet Union
Casualties and losses
1 torpedo boat sunk
1 steamer sunk
1 auxiliary minelayer sunk
5 submarines sunk

The Bulgarian Navy during World War II supported the Axis Powers in the Black Sea and consisted mainly of four obsolete Drazki-class torpedo boats, five modern Lurrsen type motor torpedo boats and three formerly Dutch motor torpedo boats. Bulgaria saw little naval fighting during the war, its main action taking place in October 1941.[5]

The so-called Operation Varna consisted in the minelaying of the Bulgarian coast by the Romanian minelayers Amiral Murgescu, Regele Carol I and Dacia, escorted by Romanian 250t-class torpedo boat Năluca, Sborul and Smeul, Romanian gunboats Sublocotenent Ghiculescu and Căpitan Dumitrescu and Bulgarian torpedo boats Drazki, Smeli and Hrabri.[6] The operation, lasting between 7 and 16 October 1941, was largely successful, as despite the loss of the Romanian auxiliary minelayer Regele Carol I to a Soviet mine,[7] the five minefields laid by the Romanian minelayers along the Bulgarian coast are credited with the sinking of four Soviet submarines: S-34, L-24, Shch-211 and Shch-210, although the latter could have also been sunk by German aircraft or depth-charged by the Bulgarian patrol boats Belomorets and Chernomorets.[8]

On 6 December 1941, Belomorets and Chernomorets depth-charged and sank the Soviet submarine Shch-204.[9]

Soviet submarines also laid mines near the Bulgarian coast, the 2304-ton Bulgarian steamer Chipka being sunk off Varna by mines laid by the submarine L-4.[10]

On 19 May 1943, the Bulgarian torpedo boat Smeli foundered between Varna and Burgas during a storm.[11]

The campaign ended when Bulgaria changed sides and joined the Soviet Union in September 1944.


Structure of the Naval Forces 2018 (click to enlarge)
The Bulgarian fleet in Varna
The Wielingen-class frigate ex-Westdiep, now BGS Gordi
  • Naval Forces Command, Varna
    • Naval Forces Staff
    • Naval Operations Center
    • Coastal Fundamental System for CIS Support
    • Coastal Information Detachment
    • Independent Electronic Surveillance Detachment
    • Command, Control and Communications Units
    • Naval Base Command
      • Naval Base Staff
      • Naval Base Location Varna
      • Naval Base Location Atia
      • Repair and Maintenance Center
      • Armament and Equipment Storage
      • Ship Divisions
        • 1st Patrol Ships Division
        • 3rd Mine Counter-Measure Division
        • 4th Patrol Ships Division
        • 6th Mine Counter-Measure Division
        • 18th Support Ships Division
        • 96th Support Ships Division
      • 2nd Coastal Anti-Ship Missile and Artillery Battalion
    • Independent Naval Helicopter Air Base "Chayka"
    • 63rd Naval Special Forces Reconnaissance Detachment "Black Sea Sharks"
    • Hydrographical Service of the Naval Forces
    • Equipment Storage Base of the Naval Forces
    • Military Police Company of the Naval Forces Command

A "Division" is the equivalent of land forces battalion or air force squadron as the Bulgarian Navy follows the Russian naval tradition, according to which an "Operational Squadron" or "Оперативная эскадра" is a temporary formation, an equivalent of a land forces division and in modern times a "Squadron" of the Russian Navy is an equivalent of a land forces corps.

According to the reform plans envisioned in the White Paper on Defence 2010, the two naval bases would be merged into one with two base facilities in Varna and Burgas. The manpower of the Navy would account to about 3,400 seamen. The ordered Eurocopter AS565 MB Panther helicopters were reduced from six to three units. Between 2011 and 2020 the naval "Longterm Investment Plan" should come into action, providing the sea arm of the Bulgarian military with modernised ships and new equipment.


The Bulgarian Navy will modernise three of its Wielingen-class frigates in the future. The frigates will be equipped with landing pads, allowing helicopters to land and take off from the ships' decks.[12] The list does not include vessels assigned to the border police.

Name Photo Type Class Origin Details
1st Patrol Ships Division (Naval Base Location Varna)
Reshitelni (13) (Решителни - Decisive)   ASW corvette Pauk   Soviet Union [13]
Bodri (14) (Бодри - Brisk) ASW corvette Pauk   Soviet Union [13]
Smeli (11) (Смели - Brave)   Frigate Koni   Soviet Union [14]
3rd Mine Counter-Measure Division (Naval Base Location Varna)
Tsibar (32) (Цибър)   Minehunter Tripartite   Belgium ex-Belgian Myosotis[15]
Hull numbers 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56 Minesweeper Olya   Soviet Union [16]
Iskar (31) (Искър)   Minesweeper Vanya   Soviet Union [17]
Dobrotich (33) (Добротич) Minesweeper Vanya   Soviet Union [17]
Captain-lieutenant Kiril Minkov (34) Minesweeper Vanya   Soviet Union [17]
Captain 1st rank Dimitar Paskalev (36) Minesweeper Vanya   Soviet Union [17]
4th Patrol Ships Division (Naval Base Location Atia)
Drazki (41) (Дръзки - Daring)   Frigate Wielingen   Belgium ex-Belgian frigate Wandelaar[18]
Verni (42) (Верни - Loyal) Frigate Wielingen   Belgium ex-Belgian frigate Wielingen[18]
Gordi (43) (Горди - Proud) Frigate Wielingen   Belgium ex-Belgian frigate Westdiep[18] Bought as a source for spare parts for the frigates Drazki and Verni.
Malniya (101) (Мълния - Lightning)   Corvette Tarantul   Soviet Union [19]
6th Mine Counter-Measure Division (Naval Base Location Atia)
Briz (61) (Бриз - Sea breeze)   Minesweeper Sonya   Soviet Union [20]
Shkval (62) (Шквал - Squall) Minesweeper Sonya   Soviet Union [20]
Priboi (63) (Прибой - Breaking wave) Minesweeper Sonya   Soviet Union [20]
Hull numbers 65, 66, 67, 68   Minesweeper Yevgenya   Soviet Union [21]
18th Support Ships Division (Naval Base Location Varna)
Captain 1st rank Dimitar Dobrev (206) Degaussing ship Type 1799 degaussing ship   Poland [22]
Hull numbers 121, 215, 216 Cutter Project 160 multi-purpose cutter   Bulgaria [23]
Hull number 223 Cutter Project 245 cutter   Bulgaria [24]
Hull number 231 Cutter Project 612 survey cutter   Bulgaria [25]
Balchik (203) (Балчик) Tanker Project 650 tanker   Bulgaria [26]
Proteo (224) (Протео)   Rescue vessel   Italy ex-Italian А 5310 Proteo[27][28]
Hull number 211 Tugboat   Bulgaria [29]
96th Support Ships Division (Naval Base Location Atia)
Hull numbers 312, 313 Cutter Project 160 multi-purpose cutter   Bulgaria [23]
Hull number 323 Cutter Project 245 cutter   Bulgaria [24]
Hull number 331 Cutter Project 612 survey cutter   Bulgaria [25]
Akin (303) (Акин) Tanker Project 650 tanker   Bulgaria [26]
Aheloy (321) (Ахелой) Fireboat Project 250 fireboat   Bulgaria [30]
Hull number 410 Tugboat   Bulgaria [29]
Naval academy "N.Y. Vaptsarov" (Naval Base Location Varna)
Hull number 421 Training vessel   Bulgaria [31]
Bulgarian Eurocopter AS565 Panther in Paris Air Show

Naval aviationEdit

Chayka Naval Air Base

2 Eurocopter AS565 Panther (6 originally ordered, 3 later canceled, 1 written off)

Bulgarian Chayka Naval Air Base Emblem
  • on 9 June 2017 during a training mission of artillery fire against surface targets as a part of the "Black Sea-2017" exercise of the Bulgarian Navy, a Panther helicopter crashed in the water, killing the commander and injuring the other two officers on board. The helicopter's main rotor has made contact with the fore flagpole of the frigate BGS-41 Drazki, after which it crashed into the sea. The crew commander has suffered heavy injuries upon the crash, causing his death. The other two crew members have suffered minor injuries, mainly by inhaling gases caused after the crash.[32]) The helicopter has been written off and the remaining two units have been grounded for a month on 10 June. After the helicopter struck the flagpole it became increasingly unstable and the commander Capt. Georgi Anastasov decided to turn back to the frigate and attempt an emergency landing in the water nearby, maximizing the chances for a rapid emergency recovery by the surface ships nearby. According to Ministry of Defence and Navy officials his actions have directly contributed to the saving of the other two officers on board with only minor injuries and for his efforts he has been promoted to Major posthumously.

3 Mil Mi-14 (stored in non-flyworthy condition)


Type Origin Details
Exocet   France anti-ship missiles
P-15MC Termit   Soviet Union anti-ship missiles
RIM-7 Sea Sparrow   United States surface-to-air missiles
SA-N-4   Soviet Union surface-to-air missiles
SA-N-5   Soviet Union surface-to-air missiles


  1. ^ "Bulgarian Navy Discards Submarine Force". 3 November 2011. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  2. ^ Spencer Tucker, Priscilla Mary Roberts,World War I: A Student Encyclopedia, p. 391
  3. ^ Raymond Stănescu, Cristian Crăciunoiu, Marina română în primul război mondial, Modelism Publishing, 2000, p. 55
  4. ^ Spencer Tucker, Priscilla Mary Roberts, Encyclopedia of World War I, Volume 1, p. 240
  5. ^ Spencer Tucker, World War II at Sea: An Encyclopedia, Volume 1, pp. 131-132
  6. ^ Donald A Bertke, Gordon Smith, Don Kindell, World War II Sea War, Volume 4: Germany Sends Russia to the Allies, p. 323
  7. ^ Donald A Bertke, Gordon Smith, Don Kindell, World War II Sea War, Volume 4: Germany Sends Russia to the Allies, p. 324
  8. ^ Mikhail Monakov, Jurgen Rohwer, Stalin's Ocean-going Fleet: Soviet Naval Strategy and Shipbuilding Programs 1935-1953, pp. 265-266
  9. ^ Antony Preston, Warship 2001-2002, p. 88
  10. ^ Donald A Bertke, Gordon Smith, Don Kindell, World War II Sea War, Volume 4: Germany Sends Russia to the Allies, p. 260
  11. ^ "Druzki torpedo boats (1908-1909)- Bulgarian Navy (Bulgaria)". Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  12. ^ "Bulgarian navy faces trimming, modernisation - Defence Minister". The Sofia Echo. 12 April 2011. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  13. ^ a b "Противолодочни кораби проект 1241.2Э "Молния-2"". Retrieved 5 October 2014. (Bulgarian)
  14. ^ "Стражеви кораб проект 1159 /Смели/". Retrieved 5 October 2014. (Bulgarian)
  15. ^ "Минен ловец тип "Tripartite"". Retrieved 5 October 2014. (Bulgarian)
  16. ^ "Миночистачни катери проект 1259.2 "Малахит"". Retrieved 5 October 2014. (Bulgarian)
  17. ^ a b c d "Базови тралщици проект 257Д и 257ДМЭ". Retrieved 5 October 2014. (Bulgarian)
  18. ^ a b c "Фрегата тип E-71 "Wielingen"". Retrieved 5 October 2014. (Bulgarian)
  19. ^ "Голям ракетен катер проект 1241.1Т "Молния-1"". Retrieved 5 October 2014. (Bulgarian)
  20. ^ a b c "Базови тралщици проект 1265 "Яхонт"". Retrieved 5 October 2014. (Bulgarian)
  21. ^ "Базови тралщици проект 1258Э "Корунд"". Retrieved 5 October 2014. (Bulgarian)
  22. ^ "Кораб за размагнитване проект 1799". Retrieved 5 October 2014. (Bulgarian)
  23. ^ a b "Многоцелеви моторни катери проект 160". Retrieved 5 October 2014. (Bulgarian)
  24. ^ a b "Водолазни катери проект 245". Retrieved 5 October 2014. (Bulgarian)
  25. ^ a b "Хидрографски катери проект 612". Retrieved 5 October 2014. (Bulgarian)
  26. ^ a b "Танкери-бункеровчици проект 650". Retrieved 5 October 2014. (Bulgarian)
  27. ^ "Спасителен кораб "Протео"". Retrieved 5 October 2014. (Bulgarian)
  28. ^ "Спасителен кораб "Протео"". 21 July 2011. Retrieved 5 October 2014. (Bulgarian)
  29. ^ a b "История на създаването". Retrieved 5 October 2014. (Bulgarian)
  30. ^ "Противопожарен кораб проект 250". Retrieved 5 October 2014. (Bulgarian)
  31. ^ "Учебен кораб 421". Retrieved 5 October 2014. (Bulgarian)
  32. ^ АЕРО, Списание. "Катастрофа с вертолет Panther от състава на ВМС (обобщение)". Retrieved 12 April 2018.


  • Todorov, Ilia (1996). "Fifty Years of the Bulgarian Navy". Warship International. XXXIII (1): 16–44. ISSN 0043-0374.

External linksEdit