The Bulgarian antiaircraft artillery
Bulgarian Air Defence (ПАО) was born on
first directions to protect the fighting troops against enemy aircrafts were introduced with Order on
Field Army Nr. 48, published by the Supreme
Commander of the Bulgarian Army, maj. gen. Nikola Zhekov on
27 October col. Atanas Rakovski was appointed
head of Bulgarian Air Defence. His first task was to provide the capital, the
General Headquarters and the strategic bridges on river Arda
and Maritza at Kuleliburgas and Fere-Dedeagach
with air defence. He sent the 2nd a/a section and 2 Madsen machine
guns to Kyustendil, where the headquarters were based, and the 3rd section to Kuleliburgas. The 10th Belomorska
Division was charged to provide for the air defence of the bridges until the
arrival of the guns dispatched from
On 30 October the anti-air defence of Bulgarian strongpoints along the bank of the Danube was organized employing old slow firing field gun on improvised mounting :
- Svishtov : six guns with an infantry detachment;
- Somovit : two guns with an infantry detachment;
- Lom : eight Krupp guns with a cavalry squadron.
the month of November col. Rakovski coped with the problem of the defence of the
bridges on river Arda and Maritza. After a careful
inspection, thinking that the existing defences were inadequate, he decided
to send the 1st section to Kuleliburgas.
The fighting units at the front and the troops of the strongpoints along the bank of the Danube and the coast of the Black sea had to provide for the air defence with their own means, and used common field guns, usually of old pattern.
On 15 December the Bulgarian Air Defence was composed by :
1st a/a battery – Cpt. Bogdan Bonev (Sofia)
1st a/a section - Cpt. Bogdan Bonev (Lozenech) - two 75mm Krupp BaK
2nd a/a section – Act. 2nd Lt. Stefan Balabanov (Kyustendil) - two 87mm Krupp not QF guns
3rd a/a section - Act. 2nd Lt. Todor Shishkov (Kuleliburgas) - two 87mm Krupp not QF guns
a/a battery (formed on
1st a/a section - Srg. Georgi Balabanov (Konyovitza) - two 80mm De Bange not QF guns
2nd a/a section - Srg. Georgi Nestorov (Slatinski Redubt) - two 80mm De Bange not QF guns
3rd a/a section - Srg. Petar Petrov (Telegraph Battalion) - two 80mm De Bange not QF guns
a/a battery (formed on
1st a/a section - (bridge on Arda river) - two 87mm Krupp not QF guns
2nd a/a section - (Kuleliburgas railway station) - two 87mm Krupp not QF guns
3rd a/a section - (Fere) - two 87mm Krupp not QF guns
There were also seven MG half companies :
were placed in
- two at Kuleliburgas : on the bridge on Maritza river and at the railway station.
During 1916 new a/a units were raised in order to protect the most important military targets in Bulgaria. In March the 1st battery was reformed at Kyustendil, adding to the two sections already deployed there, a third section coming from Kuleliburgas.
care was taken to effectively defend
bty. with two 75mm guns, taken from the battery
assigned to the
- 6th bty. with four 87mm guns, taken from the replacement battery of 4th artillery regiment, was placed in courtyard of the regiment;
- 7th bty. with four 87mm guns, taken from Sofiyski Fortress Regiment, was placed at Slatinski Redubt.
They were supported by 4 more machine guns emplacements, placed to protect the mint, the military club, the War Ministry and the railway station.
March, to protect the troops in
In addition the field artillery guns of the Infantry Division along the front were trained to antiaircraft fire.
1. after the announce that enemy aircrafts were coming, the head of every a/a unit (batteries, sections) should open fire at every aircraft flying within the range of its guns, without waiting an additional order or signal;
2. the take-off of Bulgarian or allied aircrafts that would fly within the range of the a/a guns of the strongpoints should ever communicated in time, in order to keep from firing against them, since at high altitude the national marks were not recognizable;
3. the battery and section commanders should be at any time at their posts, without leaving them without a written license, otherwise they were regarded as guilty of unwarranted absence in presence of the enemy;
4. after the announce that enemy aircrafts were coming, communication by phone should be allowed only from higher ranks to lower ranks, that is from battery commander to section commanders or from the head of the Air Defence to battery commanders;
5. the battery should not advise the population that an enemy aircraft was coming : as soon as the a/a artillery opened fire, everybody should go under cover, to avoid to be hit by bombs or shell splinters, in Sofia nevertheless a signal would be given ringing the bells the of the church of Saints Cyril and Methodius;
6. firing on aircraft with rifles was strictly forbidden, since it was fully ineffective;
in order to direct a quick fire, every battery
should have at least 10 shrapnel with fuzes at
different set at
1 May, however, the Head of the Artillery asked col. Rakovski
to allow to fire with rifles against aircrafts flying at less than
The entry into the war of Romania forced the Bulgarian Army to strengthen the air defence of Northern Bulgaria: therefore on July and August one a/a platoon was deployed at Kaspichan and Razgrad, and two at Dryanovo and Gorna Oryahovitza. Some months later, however they were moved southward, to defend the seashore of Thrace, where also eight independent a/a sections numbered 21st to 28th had been raised and deployed.
During the first half of 1917 the Bulgarian a/a artillery saw no major increase. Two more batteries were raised, but they remained without weapons, waiting for the delivery of the new antiaircraft guns ordered in Germany.
On 1 July the Bulgarian Air Defence was composed by :
- a staff with 2 officers and 4 men,
- 9 a/a batteries armed with 35 a/a sections armed with 57 guns;
- 3 machine guns half companies with 27 MG emplacements;
- 19 officers, 6 NCOs and 614 privates.
In addition during July every a/a sections received one Schwarzlosе MG for its close-defence : in all 20 machine guns were delivered to the fighting units.
25 July 8th and 9th batteries were
armed with special anti-air guns sent by German Army (76.2mm Russian guns
seized as trophies). Every battery had 3 two-guns sections, and was equipped
with 2 binoculars and a
During the second half of 1917 three more batteries were raised, using guns of various kinds, and at the end of the year the Bulgarian a/a artillery could deploy altogether 12 batteries. The coast of the Black Sea were protected by the German Army, that dispatched to Varna and Burgas 4 – 88mm L/45 K-FlaK M. 1917. The German Navy sent another 3 – 88mm L/45 K-FlaK to the hydroplane station of Ksanti on the Aegean Sea.
only a little number of new units was raised, the last year of the war saw a significant
qualitative improvement of the Bulgarian antiaircraft artillery. As soon as
modern QF guns became available and special a/a guns came from
order to improve the air defence of the capital and of the General
Headquarters, on 11 February the
barrage fire was organized at Sofia and Kystendil.
Every a/a section had a distinct sector 2 km/2.5 km in length, where it had
to open a rapid and uniform fire at an altitude of 1500 m/
During the second quarter of the year the 12th a/a battery was rearmed with 75mm Schneider QF guns, while the 14th section received 75mm Krupp QF and was moved from Konovitza to the airport of Bozhurishte. A new 49th a/a section with a single 75mm gun replaced it at Konovitza. At the same time the 1st and 11th a/a sections, assigned to the air defence of the capital, were reunited to form a new 13th a/a battery, and the 1st a/a battery at Kyustendil received a third section armed with 87mm not QF Krupp guns. Also the sections deployed at Kuleliburgas were rearmed, receiving 75mm QF Krupp guns.
to defend the main towns of Southern Bulgaria 3 independent a/a sections were
formed and deployed at
On 1 August, on the eve of the allied offensive, the Bulgarian Air Defence was composed by :
- a staff with 3 officers and 5 privates,
- 13 a/a batteries with 49 sections;
- 5 a/a machine guns half companies;
- 18 officers, 7 acting 2nd lieutenants, 243 NCOs and 679 privates.
On 31 August a reorganization of the Air Defence units was established with the Order on Field Army Nr. 1635, introducing one a/a artillery division in every Army, and reasserting that all the a/a batteries should be composed by at least three sections. In addition the a/a machine guns half companies, introduced in 1916, were replaced by companies, each with 20 machine guns emplacements. The number of the a/a batteries and a/a machine guns companies should be fixed according with the number of the existing sections and emplacements. Nevertheless, the offensive of the Armée d’Orient and the end of the war prevented the full achievement of this project.
last unit raised by the Bulgarian Army during the World War was 50th
a/a section, formed on