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Bulgaria: Ground Forces
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Defense Organization > Armed Services > Ground Forces


Ground forces combat units included motorized rifle, tank, artillery and missile, and antiaircraft troops, as well as several combat support branches. The ground forces numbered over 70,000 soldiers, the majority of whom were conscripts. As recently as 1990, they had consisted mainly of eight motorized rifle divisions and five tank brigades. In 1991 the active ground forces deployed four motorized rifle divisions and two tank brigades, with four divisions and one brigade in reserve status. In implementing the new defensive doctrine, the ground forces further reduced tanks in the remaining motorized rifle divisions by 30 percent, converting their tank regiments into motorized rifle regiments. Defensive weapons in divisions were increased by adding more antitank, combat engineering, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare units. The attachment of several antiaircraft elements to the ground forces command indicated that the command operated its own air defense network to protect deployed ground units. The antiaircraft attachments included one air defense command post, one air defense brigade, several antiaircraft maintenance brigades, one radiotechnical or radar battalion, and one antiaircraft artillery test range.

In all, the ground forces had over 2,400 tanks, including more than 300 T-72, 1,300 T-55, and 600 older T-34 vehicles. The more than 2,000 armored combat vehicles included nearly 150 modern BMP armored fighting vehicles and over 600 BTR-60 and 1,100 MT-LB armored personnel carriers. The ground forces operated 2,500 largecaliber artillery systems. These included 450 85mm D-44 and 100mm SU-100 and T-12 antitank guns; 200 122mm BM-21 multiple rocket launchers; over 1,600 122mm and 152mm howitzers and guns, including nearly 700 self-propelled 2S1, 500 M-30, and smaller numbers of D20, M-1937, and M-46 towed guns; and 350 mortars, including the self-propelled 120mm Tundzha produced in Bulgaria. The ground forces had 64 launchers for surface-to-surface missiles. That number included modern SS-1 missiles and older, less accurate FROG7 missiles with respective ranges of 300 and 75 kilometers. Besides these battlefield missiles, eight longer-range SS-23 launchers were available. The Sovietmade AT-3 was the main antitank guided missile in the inventory. Air defense for the ground forces consisted of 50 mobile SA-4, SA6, and man-portable SA-13 tactical surface-to-air missiles and nearly 400 self-propelled and towed 100mm, 85mm, 57mm, and 23mm air defense guns.

The bulk of the ground forces were deployed along two primary operational directions; the west-southwest, opposite Yugoslavia and Greece, and the southeast, opposite Turkey. Stationed in Sofia, Plovdiv, and southern Khaskovo provinces, the First Army faced Yugoslavia and Greece with more than 600 tanks, 700 armored combat vehicles, and 800 large-caliber artillery weapons. The Third Army was located primarily in Burgas and northern Khaskovo provinces facing Turkey with over 800 tanks, 900 armored combat vehicles, and 700 heavy artillery pieces. The active units of the Second Army, a low-strength formation to be staffed by reserves in wartime, were based in central Bulgaria, in Plovdiv, and northern Khaskovo provinces. The Second Army was positioned to support either the First Army in the west or the Third Army in the east when fully mobilized during wartime. Relatively few ground forces were deployed in the north opposite Romania or in the east along the Black Sea coast.

At nearly full strength, the First and Third Armies had two motorized rifle divisions each. Strategic reserves consisted of one independent tank brigade and one artillery, antitank, and antiaircraft regiment each. In 1991 the Third Army opposite Turkey had a second independent tank brigade reinforced with two artillery battalions. The tank brigades each had four to six battalions and as many as 200 tanks. Support units included supply, maintenance, and artillery-technical brigades; communications and combat engineering regiments; and radio relay cable, electronic warfare, reconnaissance, artillery-reconnaissance, parachute-reconnaissance, radio-technical, bridging, and chemical defense battalions. The armies also controlled their own artillery, chemical, communications, vehicle and armor, combat engineering, medicalsanitary, fuel, and food depots, military hospitals, and maintenance and mobilization bases to support their maneuver units. They had one or two territorial training centers that functioned as reserve divisions for their respective armies. The centers were organized into reserve detachments for motorized rifle, tank, artillery, and antiaircraft troops, and specialist training groups for artillery-technical, antitank, reconnaissance, communications, combat engineering, maintenance, and rear support troops. Many reserve detachments were significant forces in themselves, often as large as motorized rifle regiments but lacking a full contingent of personnel. The low-strength Second Army itself was similar in organization and purpose to a territorial training center. It had one full-strength tank brigade, one artillery regiment, several combat support regiments and battalions, several reserve detachments and groups, depots, one military hospital, and one maintenance base.

The typical motorized rifle division had four motorized rifle regiments, one artillery regiment, one antiaircraft artillery regiment, one independent tank battalion, one independent artillery battalion, one antitank battalion, and several machine gunartillery battalions. Reconnaissance, communications, combat engineering, maintenance, and supply battalions provided necessary combat support to the division.

A typical motorized rifle regiment had three motorized rifle battalions with ninety armored combat vehicles and one tank battalion with thirty tanks. Its artillery battalion had two to four batteries of nine artillery pieces. It had one antiaircraft artillery battalion, one antitank battery, and one or two machine gun-artillery batteries.

Data as of June 1992

Last Updated: June 1992

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Bulgaria was first published in 1992. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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