Total Bulgaria received:
- 72 (according to other data - 78) Avia B-534 fighters, mainly srs.III and srs.IV modifications. The fighter was equipped with the Hispano-Suiza HS 12Ybrs engine, power 850 hp, which allowed to develop the maximum speed 394 km / h. The armament consisted of 4 synchronous 7,7-mm machine gun Model 30 in the front of the fuselage and 6 20-kg bombs on underwing racks;
Fighter Avia B-534 Bulgarian Air Force
- 60 reconnaissance-light bomber Letov S.328. The aircraft developed a maximum speed of 280 km / h and was armed with two 7,92-mm machine guns vz.30 (for 400 ammunition); two such machine guns (420 cartridges) to protect the rear hemisphere and could carry up to 500 kg bombs;
Multi-purpose aircraft Letov S.328 Bulgarian Air Force
- 32 medium bomber Avia B-71, which is a copy of the Soviet SB, produced in Czechoslovakia under license, with Czech engines Avia Hispano-Suiza 12 Ydrs and the Czech arms. They were intended for two squadrons of the 5 th bomber regiment stationed in Plovdiv. In the Bulgarian Air Force, the aircraft received the official designation "Avia" B-71 "Zherav" ("crane") or "Katyushka". The Bulgarian pilots noted hellish cold in winter, especially in the navigator’s cabin, in the machine-gun installation blown through the vertical slots, strong vibration of the engines, poor visibility of all crew members, lack of normal communication between the crew members (the existing pneumatic mail was anachronistic since the time of Tsar Pea), a small bomb load ( half a ton of bombs), frequent failures of the landing gear hydraulic system. There were no claims only to Czech-made Hispano-Suiz engines and Czech instruments (radio station, bomb sight, etc.);
Bomber Avia B.71 1-ae 5-th abp of the Bulgarian Air Force
- 12 medium bomber Aero MB.200 (French bomber Bloch MB.200, released under license in Czechoslovakia). During the war they were used to patrol the Black Sea coast;
Bomber Aero MB.200 Bulgarian Air Force
- 28 Avia training aircraft and 1 bomber Aero A-304.
In September 1939, a new identification mark was adopted - a black Andreevsky cross against a white square with a black border. Essentially, it was a return to the mark used by the Bulgarian aviation at the end of World War I, only the cross was black, not green. This identification mark lasted until 1944.
Thus, by the end of 1939, the Bulgarian Air Force had the following units:
- 1-th Army Air Group Major Vasil Valkov, based at the airport Bozhurishte. They consisted of the 36 light Polish bomber PZL P-43 (three squadrons of 12 aircraft) and 11 training planes of various types that were part of the training squadron;
- 2 th fighter air group of Major K. Georgiev, based at the airport of Karlovo. It consisted of 60 former Czechoslovak fighters Avia B-534 (four squadrons of 15 aircraft) and 11 training aircraft of various types included in the training squadron;
- The 3 th reconnaissance air group of Major E. Karadimchev, based on the Yambol airfield. It consisted of 48 former Czechoslovak multi-purpose aircraft Letov S.328 (four squadrons of 12 aircraft) and 12 training aircraft;
- 4 th army army air group of Major I. Ivanov, based at the airport of Gorna-Oryahovitsa in 194 km northeast of Sofia;
- The 5 th bomber air group of Major S. Stoykov, based at the airfield in Plovdiv. It consisted of the 3 squadron on the 12 Avia B-71 bomber. The squadron included 15 Dornier Do 11 and Aero MB.200;
- an officer's aviation school led by Major M. Dimitrov, stationed at the hostile airfield near Sofia, which had 62 training aircraft of various types, mainly German Fw.44 Steiglitz;
Training aircraft Fw.44 Steiglitz Luftwaffe
- flying school under the command of Major G. Drenikov at the Kazanlak airfield, which had in its composition 52 training aircraft;
- Fighter school in Karlovo;
- flying school for blind flights in Plovdiv.
In the middle of 1940, the Bulgarian aviation formed the regiments, and its organizational structure took on the following form:
- two aircraft were a pair (two);
- four planes or two pairs constituted a link (krilo);
- The squadron (Ito) consisted of 3 units (12 aircraft);
- the air group (eagle) consisted of 3 squadrons and consisted of 40 aircraft;
- The air regiment (regiment) consisted of 3 air group, and its number was 120 aircraft.
In fact, it was a copy of the structure of the Luftwaffe, and the Bulgarian air regiment was analogous to the German air group (German Geschwader).
In order to increase the trained commanders in the summer of 1940, the 20 Bulgarian pilots were sent for training to the Italian Air Force Academy in Caserta, in 25 km north of Naples.
However, despite significant quantitative growth, Bulgarian aviation was still inferior to its rivals in the region. First of all, this concerned fighters: Bulgarian biplanes could not resist the Yugoslav Messerschmitt Bf.109 and Hawker HURRICANE; Greek Bloch MB.152; Romanian Heinkel He.112 and Turkish Morane-Saulnier MS406. All attempts to buy them abroad ended in nothing. An attempt to buy Bloch MB.20 fighters in France ended in failure, because the Germans prohibited the Vichy government from selling them to the Bulgarians.
French fighter Bloch MB.152
However, the Germans allowed the Bulgarians to buy 12 unnecessary Czechoslovak fighters Avia Av-135 and 62 motor to them. The fighter was the crown of Czechoslovak prewar aviation thought, developed a maximum speed of up to 534 km / h and was armed with an 20-mm MG FF cannon and two 7,92-mm machine guns wz. 30. The Bulgarians liked the fighter so much that they even tried to organize its own production at the plant in Lovech, planning to launch 50 units. However, the weak Bulgarian industry was unable to arrange the assembly of such a modern aircraft. In addition, after the delivery of the first 35 engines, all Avia's capacities were needed for Luftwaffe orders, and the German Ministry of Aviation canceled the contract.
Fighter Av-135 Bulgarian Air Force
However, in the same year 1940 the Germans decided to strengthen the Bulgarian Air Force and put the first 10 modern fighter Messerschmitt Bf.109-3.
Also, the Germans sold X-NUMX bombers to Dornier Do 12 bomber modifications M and P, which had just flown off a military campaign in France. The firm Dornier bought them from existing aircraft parts, repaired, refurbished at its factories and resold to Bulgaria. Do 17M aircraft were written off from parts of the Luftwaffe as obsolete, but, according to the Germans, they could easily have passed for modern ones for Bulgarian aviation. December 17 6 of the year Do 1940M became part of the Bulgarian Air Force. They entered service with the 17 Squadron of the 4 Bomber Regiment, which was located in Plovdiv. In Bulgaria, the aircraft arrived without a bombing mechanism, which was installed on the spot and was designed for Czechoslovak bombs.
Do 17P bomber from 5-th bomber eagle of the Bulgarian Air Force
It was also transferred to 38 training aircraft: 14 Bucker BU.131 JUNGMANN and 24 Arado Ar.96.
Arado Ar.96 Luftwaffe
Thus, the number of Bulgarian aircraft reached 580 units, but this number was impressive only on paper, since the vast majority of them were either outdated models or training aircraft.
In August, 1940 Bulgaria made territorial claims to Romania, demanding the return of the southern part of the Dobrudja Highlands, lost as a result of the defeat in the Second Balkan War in 1913. At the suggestion of Germany and Italy, the issue of Romania’s territorial claims from Bulgaria and Hungary was referred to International Court of Arbitration in Vienna. As a result, on the decision of this court, Bulgaria 7 September 1940 was given back the required territories. October 17 1940 Germany officially proposed Bulgaria to join the Berlin Pact. In 1940, the Germans began re-equipping the ports of Varna and Burgas to accommodate warships. In the winter of 1940 — 41. a special group of Luftwaffe advisers was sent to Bulgaria, whose main task was to organize the training of Bulgarian airfields to receive German aircraft. At the same time, the construction of a network of new aerodromes began in Bulgaria, the total number of which was to reach fifty. 1 March 1941 documents were signed in Vienna on the accession of Bulgaria to the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Pact.
March 2 The German 1941 Army entered the territory of Bulgaria from the territory of Romania on the territory of the country. The units of the 12 th Luftwaffe air corps were deployed in the country.
On the morning of April 6. 1941 began the German invasion of Greece and Yugoslavia. Bulgaria was an ally of the Third Reich and provided its territory for the deployment of German troops and aviation, but the Bulgarian armed forces did not take part in the hostilities. At the same time, Yugoslav and British aircraft made several raids on the Bulgarian border towns, causing panic among the local population. However, Bulgaria did not take any retaliatory steps, and its army remained in place.
19-20 April 1941 of the year, in accordance with the agreement between Germany, Italy and the Bulgarian government, parts of the Bulgarian army crossed the borders with Yugoslavia and Greece and occupied territories in Macedonia and Northern Greece.
Bulgarian troops enter Vardar, Macedonia (April 1941)
As a result, in September 1940 - April 1941, Bulgaria included 42 466 km² of territory with a population of 1,9 million. In total, in September 1940 - April 1941 Bulgaria, without participating in hostilities, increased its territory by 50%, and the population - by one third. There was "Great Bulgaria from the Black to the Aegean Sea".
In turn, the Bulgarian Air Force received 11 captured Do-17Kb-l Yugoslav bomber, which were manufactured under the German license at the Kraljevo aircraft factory, 122 km south of Belgrade.
Bomber Do 17K Air Force Yugoslavia
Despite the fact that Bulgaria took an extremely cautious position, in 1941 it did not manage to evade participation in hostilities. The day before the attack on the USSR, the military attache at the German embassy in Sofia appealed to the headquarters of the Bulgarian aviation with a request to send Bulgarian airplanes to defend the German maritime communications in the Aegean Sea.
As a result, by order of the head of the Bulgarian aviation headquarters, a special mixed group consisting of a headquarters and two squadrons equipped with 5 Do-9 and 17 Avia B-6 was created on the basis of the aircraft and crews of the 71 th bomber regiment.
23 June Bulgarian bombers were transferred to the former Greek airfield Kavala on the Aegean Sea, where the 5-I Bulgarian reconnaissance squadron had been stationed since 443 in May. Together with the crews of German reconnaissance seaplanes, Bulgarian pilots searched for British submarines en route German convoys north of Crete. It should be noted that at that time Bulgaria was not yet at war with England (she declared war on England and the USA only on December 13 1941). In total, from 23 in June 1941 to 3 in January 1942, Bulgarian bombers flew patrols over the Aegean Sea 304, but only two of them had visual contact with enemy submarines.
31 July The 1941 of the year the German command also attracted Bulgarian aviation to provide the anti-submarine defense of their sea convoys, which went through the Bulgarian territorial waters in the Black Sea from the Romanian ports to the Bosphorus and back. Especially for this task, 4 August 1941 was formed "squadron team" ("combined troops"), which was originally equipped with 9 aircraft Letov S-328. In total, from August 6 to the end of 1941, the Bulgarian S-328 carried out 68 combat missions, incl. 41 for anti-submarine convoy escort, providing escort 73 for transport ships.
5 documented cases of military contact of Bulgarian aircraft with Soviet submarines in the summer and autumn of 1941.
In the winter of 1941 — 42. Germany handed over to the Bulgarian aviation more 9 fighters Messerschmitt Bf-109E-7, but then the deliveries of German aircraft completely stopped, the Germans did not have enough aircraft for themselves and they were not going to transfer them to non-combatants.
However, this situation did not last long. 12 July 1942, the X-NUMX of the American B-13D bombers that attacked the oil fields in the Romanian Ploiesti flew over Bulgaria. For their interception into the air, Avia B-24 fighters from 534 and 612 fighter squadrons were raised in alarm. However, the Bulgarian pilots could not do anything, because their outdated biplanes could not even catch up with the heavy four-engine Liberators: the Avia B-622 fighter had a maximum speed of 534 km / h, while the B-415D bomber could reach 24 km / h
Considering this fact, in December 1942 the Germans nevertheless decided to send 16 fighters to Bulgaria Messerschmitt Bf-109G-2 fighters that arrived in March 1943. Then in the summer 13 of the same fighters arrived to Bulgaria.
Fighter Messerschmitt Bf-109G-2 Bulgarian Air Force
Also in the winter of 1942 — 43, X-NUMX Ag-12 seaplanes arrived in Bulgaria, which were sent to the 196 coastal squadron stationed on the Black Sea coast.
Arado Ag-196 reconnaissance seaplane of the Bulgarian Air Force (with identification marks 1944-1946)
However, the Germans promised to compensate for deliveries by French aircraft, the 1876 units of which were captured by them during the occupation of southern France, previously controlled by the Vichy government. The Bulgarians had planned to transfer the 246 fighters Dewoitine D.520 and 37 to the Bloch 210 bombers. But Bulgaria’s hopes of a substantial modernization of its aviation once again failed to come true - most of these aircraft landed at the Luftwaffe’s aviation schools, and some were transferred to the Italians. As a result, Bulgaria only the 96 fighters D.520 remained, and of them, by August 1943, not a single one had yet been handed over to Bulgarian aviation. Dewoitine D.520 was rightly considered the best French pre-war fighter, not inferior not only to German Messerschmitts, but also to British and American fighters. Equipped with Hispano-Suiza 12Y 45 engine, HP 935 power. He developed a maximum speed of 534 km / h and was armed with one 20-mm HS 404 cannon mounted in the fuselage and the 7,5 cannon and four 34-M39 MAC machine guns firing at the hub of the screw.
Fighter Dewoitine D.520 Bulgarian Air Force
1 August 1943 from airfields in North Africa in the Benghazi region rose for another bombardment of oil fields in Ploiesti near 170 American bombers B-24D. Avia B-534 and 10 Bf-109G-2 fighters climbed to intercept them. However, realizing that the bombers were flying to Romania, the Bulgarians did not pursue them, but decided to intercept the returning aircraft.
For pilots of hopelessly outdated Avia B-534 biplanes armed with 4 7,92-mm machine guns, the meeting with the Liberators, each of whom had 10-mm machine guns on board the 12,7, was extremely risky, if not simply suicidal. American bombers, devoid of bombs and most of the fuel, withdrew from Bulgarian biplanes without any problems. And only a few pilots of the 1 th air group, having dived from a great height, were able to approach and fire on the Liberators. One of the 98BG side shooters then recalled:
“I wiped my eyes with surprise - what was the war? World War One? It looked like there was a shift in time. Suddenly, these small biplanes appeared, which looked like old Curtiss Hawk in general. I was amazed to notice that they bombarded us before disappearing again. "
However, the Bulgarian pilots on the Bf-109G-2 managed to shoot down the American Liberian 3.
28 August 1943 Boris III, whose figure for many years rallying all Bulgarians around him, died suddenly. His minor son Simeon II became the new king of Bulgaria, on whose behalf the country became governed by the three elected regents. From that moment on, a process of gradual erosion of the entire political system began in the country.
However, this had no effect on the strengthening of Bulgarian aviation. At first, the Reichsmarschall Goering announced that he would give 48 Bf-109G to Bulgaria as a gift, and then in September at the airfield of Karlovo, the solemn ceremony of the transfer of the first 48 fighters D.520 took place. In addition, in the fall of 1943, the Bulgarians received 12 dive bomber Junkers Ju-87R-2 / R-4, to which they then gave the name "Pike".
Junkers Ju-87R dive bomber
Meanwhile, the war was coming closer and closer to the borders of Bulgaria. October 21 about 40 American aircraft appeared over the capital of Macedonia, the city of Skopje, and Bulgarian fighters managed to shoot down the American fighter F-38 "LIGHTNING".
14 November: The 12 B-91 "MITCHELL" 25 "US Air Force" 40 bomber, under cover of 38 P-38, made the first raid on Sofia. The air-raid alert was announced late, and the Bulgarian fighters were able to attack them only as early as departure. They managed to shoot down the P-2 and damage the 2 bomber, while they lost the fighter and its pilot, and also the XNUMX of the aircraft, having been damaged, made forced landings.
The next raid on Sofia took place in a week, on November 24, when the B-60D bombers from the 24 Air Force of the United States 15 bomber could achieve only 17. This time the Bulgarian fighters were ready to fly, lifting 24 D.520 and 16 Bf-109G-2, who managed to knock down 2 B-24D, damaging X-NUMX and 2 covering their P-2, losing one fighter, and even more, and even NNXX 38 behind the X-NNXX 3 XNUMX and XNUMX B-XNUMXD made a forced landing.
December 10 in the third raid on Sofia participated 31 B-24D, which again covered P-38. 22 D.520 and 17 Bf-109G-2 soared to meet them. During the air battle, the Bulgarians claimed that they were able to damage the 3 B-24D and 4 P-38. In turn, the Americans claimed that they had shot down the Devuatins 11, while losing only one Lightning, but in fact the Bulgarians lost only one D.520.
The last 1943 raid on Sofia was 20 December. 50 B-24 from 15 of the United States Air Forces, who were accompanied by 60 P-38, participated in it. 36 Bulgarian D.520 and 20 Bf-109G-2 took to the air. On that day, 7 Lightnings were shot down by them in aerial combat and another P-38 was damaged.
The Americans lost shot down and 4 B-24D, two of which were on the account of Lieutenant Dimitar Spisarevsky. At first he fire from the board weapons knocked down one, and then with his Bf-109G-2 rammed the second "Liberator". Spisarevsky died at the same time.
Lieutenant Dimitar Spisarevsky
A picture of a modern Bulgarian author depicting his feat.
Interestingly, the Embassy of Japan asked the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense to report all the circumstances of the ram committed by Spisarevsky. Then his actions were described in detail in the Japanese press, the feat of the Bulgarian pilot was cited as an example to follow Japanese pilots who were preparing to become kamikazes.
In addition, another 5 "Liberator" was damaged. The Americans claimed that 20 December shot down the 28 Bulgarian fighters. However, in reality, the Bulgarians, except for Bf-109G-2, Lieutenant Spisarevsky, lost only one aircraft, which was shot down by P-38; his pilot died. Another 2 Bulgarian fighter, received damage, made a forced landing.
This is what the Americans themselves said about this fight, for example, Lieutenant Edward Tinker, the Lightning pilot of the cover (his plane was also shot down, and he was captured in that very battle):
"The Bulgarian pilots are fighting with such bitterness, as if they were defending the world's most expensive shrine. For me, they completely exhaust the concept of unsurpassed fury in aviation."
The raids of American bombers had a strong impact on the morale of the Bulgarian civilian population. Therefore, the Bulgarian government asks Germany about the possibility of sending German fighters to 100 Sofia with the corresponding ground staff and about the immediate delivery of 50 fighters.
This time Germany took seriously the request of Bulgaria. The Luftwaffe sent one fighter group to defend Sofia, began retraining the Bulgarian pilots for 50 and provided additional material assistance to the Bulgarian aviation. During January - February 1944 of it was handed over 40 Bf-109G-6, 25 Bf-109G-2, 32 Ju-87D-3 / D-5, 10 FW-58, 9 Bu-131 and 5 Ag 96V . However, most of the new aircraft arrived in Bulgaria after the so-called. black monday.
On Monday, 10, January 1944, on Sofia, there were two raids. Around noon, 180 B-17 appeared over the city under a powerful fighter cover, and in the evening 80 British bombers attacked him. As a result, 4100 buildings were destroyed in Sofia, 750 died and 710 people were injured. The 70 of Bulgarian and 30 German fighters who managed to shoot down 8 bombers and 5 Р-38 participated in the reflection of the raids.
Sofia after the Anglo-American bombing
16, 17 and 29 March, the city has undergone new raids. But the most powerful raid took place on 30 March. It involved 450 heavy bombers: the American B-17 and B-24 and the English Halifax, which were accompanied by 150 P-38. As a result of the bombing in Sofia, about two thousand fires were noted.
To reflect the raid, the Bulgarians lifted the 73 of the aircraft into the air: 34 D.520 and 39 Bf-109G-6 took off from the airfield of Karlovo. In addition, Avia X-4 534 training biplanes also took off, which, surprisingly, were able to damage one Liberator. During the air battle 8 bombers were shot down and 5 damaged, 3 fighter and 1 damaged. At the same time, the Bulgarians lost their 5 fighters and another 2 made forced landings. 3 pilots died, while one was still parachuting, was shot at by the Americans and was seriously wounded.
17 On April, 1944 11.35 B-350 flew in 17 on Sofia and flew four “waves” that were accompanied by X-NUMX fighters Р-100 THUNDERBOLT and Р-47 MUSTANG, which the aerial surveillance service initially assumed to be German fighters. As a result, the Bulgarian fighters, hit by unexpectedly appeared "Mustangs", immediately lost the 51 "Messerschmitt". To remedy the situation, the Bulgarians raised even 7 training Avia B-4. They managed to shoot down one P-135 MUSTANG, and during the battle another air ram was committed: Lieutenant Nedelcho Bonchev rammed B-51. After a few moments, “Flying Fortress” exploded in the air, while Bonchev himself survived, dropping to the ground on a parachute.
Lieutenant Nedelcho Bonchev
A total of April 17 Bulgarians lost 9 fighters, while 6 pilots were killed, in addition, another 4 aircraft, received damage, made a forced landing.
During 1943 — 44 Allied aviation flew over 23 thousands of combat sorties over Bulgaria. 186 of Bulgarian settlements, to which 45 thousand explosive and incendiary bombs were dropped, were subjected to air strikes. As a result of the bombings, 12 thousand buildings were destroyed, 4208 died and 4744 people were injured. The Bulgarian air defenses were shot down by the Allied 65 aircraft and another 71 was damaged. During the sorties over Bulgaria, the Allies lost 585 pilots and crew members - 329 people were captured, 187 died and 69 died from injuries in hospitals. At the same time, Bulgarian aviation's own losses amounted to the 24 fighter, another 18 aircraft made forced landings, and the 19 pilots were killed.
5 September 1944 The Soviet Union declared war on Bulgaria, and on 8 September, Soviet troops entered its territory. The Bulgarian army was ordered not to resist, and the Soviet troops quickly occupied the northeastern part of the country and two main ports, Varna and Burgas.
On the night of September with 8 on 9, a military coup took place in Sofia. Parts of the capital’s garrison, which acted on the orders of the created Fatherland Front, occupied all the key facilities of the city and arrested the former government. As a result of September 9, the government of the Fatherland Front was created in Bulgaria, and the Soviet troops entered Sofia on September 16.
Already 10 September 1944, the new government declared war on the Third Reich and its allies, in connection with which the Bulgarian aircraft received new identification marks.
3 Bulgarian armies, numbering about 500 thousand people, launched an offensive in Serbia in the direction of the city of Nis, and in Macedonia - on the city of Skopje. The Allied command set a task for them - to block the path of retreat for German troops stationed in Greece.
The actions of the ground units were actively supported by the Bulgarian Ju-87D-5 and Do-17. To provide them with the necessary freedom of action, 3 Bf-109G-6 attacked the airfield of Nis, destroying the German Messerschmitts 6 immediately on the ground.
Within a month, Bulgarian troops were able to occupy Macedonia and the south-eastern regions of Serbia. As a result, parts of the Wehrmacht, cut off in Greece, surrendered to the British. In total, during the battles in Serbia, Macedonia and Greece, Bulgarian aircraft made 12 1944 combat aircraft until 3744 December, during which 694 armored vehicles and vehicles, 25 artillery batteries, 23 locomotive and 496 railway cars were destroyed. In the air battles and on the ground, the Bulgarian pilots destroyed the 25 of the Luftwaffe. At the same time, Bulgarian aviation lost 15 aircraft, 18 pilots and crew members. October 10 during the storming of the German column was shot down and captured Bulgarian ace Nedelcho Bonchev. In the German camp in southern Germany, he was twice unsuccessfully offered to collaborate with the Bulgarian government in exile, Professor Tsankov. In early May, 1945, during the evacuation of the Bonchev camp, was shot by the SS.
Then the 130th Bulgarian army was transferred to Hungary and from March 6 to 19, 1945, together with the Soviet troops participated in fierce battles in the area of Lake Balaton, where the German tank divisions attempted a counteroffensive.
In April, 1945 units of the Bulgarian army entered the territory of Austria and in the area of Klagenfurt met with units of the 8 British Army. Total 1944 — 45 In the battles against the Third Reich and its allies, Bulgaria lost about 30 thousand people.
The most prominent Bulgarian ace was Lieutenant Stoyan Stoyanov, who, flying Messerschmitt Bf-109G-2 German fighter, shot down the American X-NUMX heavy bomber B-2 and B-17 and 24 F-2 "LIGHTNING" fighter. In addition, he managed to knock down 38 B-1 in the group and another 24 B-3 damage.
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