|Warplanes of the Second World War preserved in Bulgaria
Warplanes of the Second World War preserved in Bulgaria
The aim of this website is to locate, identify and document Warplanes from the Second World War preserved in Bulgaria. Many contributors have assisted in the hunt for these aircraft to provide and update the data on this website. Photos are as credited. Any errors found here are by the author, and any additions, corrections or amendments to this list of Warplane Survivors of the Second World War in Bulgaria would be most welcome and may be e-mailed to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Data current to 9 Nov 2018.
The Axis powers also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was the alignment of nations that fought in the Second World War against the Allied forces. The alliance began in 1936 when Germany signed treaties with Italy and Japan. The “Rome-Berlin Axis” became a military alliance in 1939 under the Pact of Steel, with the Tripartite Pact of 1940 leading to the integration of the military aims of Germany and its two treaty-bound allies. At their zenith during the war, the Axis powers presided over empires that occupied large parts of Europe, Africa, East and Southeast Asia, and islands of the Pacific Ocean. The war ended in 1945 with the defeat of the Axis powers and the dissolution of the alliance. Like the Allies, membership of the Axis was fluid, with nations entering and leaving over the course of the war.
The “Axis powers” formally took the name after the Tripartite Pact was signed by Germany, Italy, and Japan on 27 September 1940, in Berlin. The pact was subsequently joined by Hungary (20 November 1940), Romania (23 November 1940), Slovakia (25 November 1940), Bulgaria (1 March 1941), and Yugoslavia (25 March 1941). Various other countries fought side by side with the Axis powers for a common cause. These countries were not signatories of the Tripartite Pact and thus not formal members of the Axis. These co-belligerents included Thailand, Finland, San Marino, and Iraq.
The Empire of Japan created a number of puppet states in the areas occupied by its military, beginning with the creation of Manchukuo (Manchuria) in 1932. These puppet states achieved varying degrees of international recognition. In addition to Manchuria, they included Mengjiang (Inner Mongolia), the Re-organized National Government of China, the Philippines (Second Republic), India (Provisional Government of Free India), Vietnam (Empire of Vietnam), Cambodia, Laos, and Burma (Baw Maw Regime).
The Italian Puppet States included Montenegro, Albania and Monaco. Germany’s Puppet Regimes included Slovakia (Tiso regime), the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Serbia, Italy (Italian Social Republic), Albania (under German control), Hungary (Szalasi regime), Norway (Quisling regime), Macedonia, Belarus, and the Province of Ljubljana. Joint German-Italian puppet states included the Independent State of Croatia and Greece. The Vichy France regime was a collaborator state. Various controversial agreements were made during the war years with Argentina, Denmark, the Soviet Union, Spain and Sweden.
This section focuses on the air forces and the combat aircraft in use by Bulgaria and the locations of surviving airframes.
Aviation Museums of Bulgaria:
Muzeul Aviatiei, National Museum of Romanian Aviation, 2-4 Fabrica de Glucoz? Street, Sector 2, Bucharest.
Muzeul Militar National “Regele Ferdinand I”, National Military Museum, Mircea Vulcanescu Street 125-127, Bucharest.
Grupul Scolar de Aeronautica Henri Coanda, B-dul Ficusului nr. 44, sector 1, Bucharest.
The Bulgarian Air Force was obsolete at the beginning of the Second World War. It was armed with a lot of Polish-built equipment (PZL P.11s, P.24s, P.23s and P.46s) bought in 1938-39, some Italian aircraft bought in the 1930s, and Czech aircraft bought in 1939 after Germany took over (72 Avia B-534 fighters + 32 Avia B-71 (SB-2) bombers). Over the course of the war, Bulgaria received more equipment from Germany, including 10 Messerschmitt Bf 109Es and 11 Dornier Do 17M in 1940, and 120 Dewoitine D.520 and 48 Bf 109G in 1943.
At the beginning of the Second World War, the Bulgarian combat air fleet comprised 374 machines in various roles. In addition orders were placed for 10 Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4 fighters, 11 Dornier Do 17M/P bombers, 6 Messerschmitt Bf 108 light liaison and utility aircraft, 24 Arado Ar 96B-2 and 14 Bücker Bü 131 Bestmann trainers.
The Air Force order of battle comprised the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Army Aviation Orlyaks (Army Air Groups or air regiments), each attached to the correspondingly-numbered field army. Each Orlyak had a fighter, a line bomber and two reconnaissance Yatos (Squadrons). There was also an Independent Aviation corps, which combined the 5th Bomber and 6th Fighter Regiments. The training units consisted of the “Junker” School Orlyak at Vrazhdebna airfield, the 2nd Training Orlyak at Telish airfield (called the Blind Flying Training School) and the 3rd Training Orlyak at Stara Zagora airfield. In 1940, the Bulgarian aviation industry provided the HMAT with 42 DAR-9, 45 KB-5 aircraft and the serial production of the KB-6 - Bulgaria‘s first twin-engined aircraft was scheduled to commence. At year’s end the Air Force had 595 aircraft (258 combat) and 10,287 personnel.
The Kingdom of Bulgaria entered the Second World War on 1 March 1941 as a German ally. Under the signed treaty Bulgaria allowed the use of its territory as a staging point for the invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece and some minor logistical support. Bulgaria’s fighter force at the time consisted of 91 machines, with just 10 of them being of the modern Bf 109E-4 type. In addition, 11 were of the outdated PZL.24B; the remaining numbers were of the Avia B.534 biplane types. The ground-based air defences were made up of only eight 88-mm (3.5 in) and six 20-mm (0.79 in) AA guns. To help its new ally the 12th Army of the Wehrmacht offered support with its air and air defense assets and 8 Freya-type radars dispersed throughout the country. A dispersed observation and reporting system was gradually developed. (Wikipedia)
Arado Ar 196A floatplane in Bulgarian Air Force markings, and her crew. (Bulgarian Air Force Photo)
Arado Ar 196A floatplane in Bulgarian Air Force markings, Bulgarian Museum of Aviation and the Air Force Plovdive, Bulgaria. (Gonzosft Photo)
The first air strike against Bulgarian targets was carried out by 4 Yugoslav Dornier Do.17Kb-1 on 6 April 1941 on the city of Kyustendil and its railway station killing 47 and injuring 95, mostly civilians. The air strikes intensifying following days; British Royal Air Force units based in Greece participated in the attacks as well. At the end of April the 2nd and 5th Bulgarian armies occupied Greek and Yugoslav territories according to an agreement with the Third Reich.
Bulgarian Dornier Do 17 bomber. (Bulgarian Air Force Photo)
As a part of the joint armed forces’ effort on 26 June 1941, six Avia B.71 and 9 Dornier Do 17M bombers were transferred to the Badem Chiflik airfield near Kavala (in modern Greece). They were tasked with ASW patrols and air support for Italian shipping over the adjacent area of the Aegean Sea. In addition 9 Letov Š.328s based in Badem Chiflik provided the ground troops with air reconnaissance. At the Black Sea shores the “Galata” Fighter Orlyak was established at NAS Chaika, Varna, with the 10 Bf 109E-4s and 6 Avia B.534s. The S.328s were also used for ASW patrols over the Black Sea, flying out of the Sarafovo and Balchik airfields. At the end of 1941 the inventory of His Majesty’s Air Troops consisted of 609 aircraft of 40 different types.
The Avia B-534 was a Czechoslovak biplane fighter produced during the Second World War. Bulgaria bought 78 B-534s in 1939, well after the partition. The last batch of these aircraft arrived in March 1942. On 1 August 1943, seven of these aircraft were able to make two passes at American Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers returning from the raid on Ploie?ti. Hits were scored but no B-24s were shot down and some of the B-534s that received damage in the combat, cracked up on landing. After the anti-German coup of 9 September 1944, Bulgaria switched sides overnight and its B-534s were often used in ground attacks against German units. On 10 September 1944, six B-534s were involved in a brief melee with six German Bf 109s at low altitude. One B-534 was lost, but the Germans quickly broke off, wary of the low altitude and the B-534’s manoeuvrability. 
Former French Dewoitine D.520 fighters captured by Germany and in service with the Bulgarian Air Force, ca 1943-1944. (Bulgarian Air Force Photos)
As German forces invaded Vichy’s so-called “free zone” in November 1942, they captured 246 Dewoitine D.520s. Of these, 96, or 120, were transferred to Vozdushni Voiski, the Bulgarian Air Force, for use in combat. The D.520s reached Bulgaria in August 1943, as the Bulgarian fighter pilots were still training on the type at Nancy with JG 107. The following month, the first 48 Dewoitines were taken over in a ceremony on Karlovo airfield. Two months later, on 24 November, the D.520s were used in combat, when 17 out of the 60 B-24s of 15th USAAF arrived in the Bulgarian sky to bomb the capital, Sofia. Twenty four Dewoitines took off from Vrashdebna base (along with 16 Bf 109G-2s from Bojourishte) and attacked the bombers and the 35 escorting P-38s. The Bulgarian pilots claimed four American aircraft for the loss of one fighter, three more aircraft had to force land. American bombers attacked Sofia again, on 10 December 1943. That day, 31 B-24 Liberators escorted by P-38s, were intercepted by six Dewoitines of II/6th Fighter regiment from Vrashdebna and 16 D.520s of I/6th Fighter regiment from Karlov (along with 17 Bf 109G-2s). The Americans claimed 11 D.520s for the loss on only one P-38. Later records showed only one Dewoitine was lost during that air battle.
The Vozdushni Voiski D.520s were again up in force, to face the massive Allied air raid of 30 March 1944. To intercept the 450 bombers (B-17s, B-24s and Handley Page Halifaxes) escorted by 150 P-38s, the Bulgarians scrambled 28 Dewoitines from I./6th at Karlovo, six D.520s from II/6th at Vrashdebna (together with 39 Bf 109G-6s and even Avia 135s). At least ten Allied aircraft (eight bombers and two P-38s) where shot down, while Vozdushni Voiski lost five fighters and three pilots. Two more Bulgarian aircraft had to force land.
Bulgarian Messerschmitt Bf 109G fighters. (Bulgarian Air Force Photos)
During the last Allied raid on Sofia, on 17 April, the II./6th fighter scrambled seven Dewoitines (plus 16 Bf 109s) against 350 B-17s and B-24s escorted by 100 P-51 Mustangs. Bulgarians pilots, that up to that time had encountered only P-38s, mistook the P-51s for their own Bf 109 and before they realized their mistake, seven Bf 109G-6s had been shot down. That day the Vozdushni Voiski suffered the heaviest losses since the beginning of the war: nine fighters shot down and three that had to crash land. Six pilots lost their lives. By 28 September 1944, twenty days after Bulgaria joined the Allies, Dewoitines still equipped a Orlyak (Group) of 6th Fighter regiment: I Group had a total of 17 D.520s, five in repair and 12 operational, for its three Jato (Squadrons).
Dar 10 in Bulgarian Air Force service. (Bulgarian Air Force Photo)
Aviation Museums of Bulgaria
Muzej na Aviatsyata I VVS, Bulgarian Museum of Aviation, Krumovo, Plovdiv, 4112. Arado Ar 196A3, No. 3.
Nationalen Istoricheski Muzei, National Historical Museum, 16 Vitosho Lale Str, Sofia.
Voenno Istoricheski Muzei, Military Historical Museum, 23 General Skobelev Blvd, Sofia.
Voenno Morski Musei, Naval Museum, 2 Primorski Blvd, Varna 9000.