Publishing House of the Party
NPLA red star, used by all branches
The NPLA has a total personnel of 265,000 men with another 1,050,000 in reserve. Most of the personnel are mobilised reservists. The bulk of this number, or about 210,000 soldiers, serve in the Army. The Air Force is the second-largest branch with 40,000 men in service, and the Navy has 15,000 personnel. The nation's small nuclear arsenal is managed and controlled by the Air Force.
The National People's Liberation Army was launched in late 2013 as the armed wing of the Bulgar Rouge movement. Its first units were cheti, or bands of 5-10 soldiers armed with hunting rifles, illegally procured firearms and pistols, without standardised equipment and trained in the most basic forms of guerrilla warfare. The worsening economic situation of Bulgaria led to the disillusionment of many suspended military officers, who joined the ranks of the NPLA and helped train some of its first battalions.
Other, smaller military units were constructed from mercenaries with experience in the Middle East. These groups established connections with Hezbollah, Peshmerga, Iraqi militias and several African insurgent groups and sent some of their volunteers to gain combat experience. These experienced troops and mercenaries together formed the core of the State Security troops under the banner of the 9th State Security Company.
The first major operation of the NPLA was the Battle of Vidin. With the country submerged, its power supply crippled and thousands killed by floods, the NPLA decided to launch its first operation in the long-neglected Northwest of Bulgaria. Seventeen platoons, or some 800 men, launched an offensive on 14 March. The NPLA seized the villages of General Marinovo, Druzhba and Peshakovo in preparation for their offensive. By this point, they already operated three T-55 tanks stolen from Bulgarian Army surpluses, along with a number of armoured vehicles like BTR-152s and BTR-40s. Vidin was captured days later, and its police stations surrendered their weapons to the NPLA while police officers agreed to enforce order in the "liberated territories". Those who resisted were publicly executed, usually through clubbing or burning.
By mid-April 2014, the NPLA was in control of the entire Vidin province and used the Danube to launch attacks on cities along the river. Its troops were already in control of the strategic Vidin-Kalafat bridge, where the bulk of cargo traffic between Romania and Bulgaria occurred, the Belene prison, a small oil facility in Dolni Dabnik and the oil refinery near Pleven. Local administrators were executed and replaced with Bulgar Rouge political cadres, while the population was liberated from taxes. This quickly won the support of locals, and volunteer numbers inflated the NPLA to a total personnel of 3,000 men.
The Bulgarian government military sent troops to quell the armed offensive, but the high morale of NPLA troops, their excellent organisation and experienced volunteers from foreign insurgencies rendered the Bulgarian Army's actions futile. The government lost its gunships, bleeded its little available manpower in ambushes and roadside bombs, and the response of NATO was slow. At that point, mass desertions in government army ranks swelled the NPLA's numbers to more than 10,000 by the end of May. The NPLA succeeded in capturing most of northern Bulgaria with these numbers, meeting virtually no resistance from the scattered and poorly organised military.
Ex-BA NPLA troops outside Sofia, late June 2014
To soften the defences, the NPLA employed newly-captured artillery systems from military stocks to bombard key districts daily and indiscriminately. Other districts were purposefully spared; thus, the NPLA directed refugee streams inside the surrounded city and prompted loyalist units to redeploy their defences in order to avoid civilian casualties. Shortly after civilians left their neighbourhoods, NPLA shock troops settled into the husks of the buildings and set up their own fortifications. The attack on Sofia was launched from three directions - the airport, Republika 2 district and Gorublyane.
It was during these initial fights that the NPLA's brutality reached all-time highs. Resisting civilians and Municipal Guards members were summarily executed through clubbing, burning, hook hanging, mass drowning in sewers or murder with agricultural tools. The executions were streamed and broadcast on live television, making a profound psychological impact on the remaining defenders and civilians. Seeing that their current system is no more, the bulk of the Municipal Guards personnel deserted their posts and many civilians fled. In less than three weeks, the NPLA completely captured Sofia, proving its worth in organising tactical and strategic planning alike.
Main threads: Fatherland War and Continuation War
The first international challenge for the NPLA was the Fatherland War against the combined forces of Inyursta and Gran Cuscatlan. Following a number of mutual provocations, Gran Cuscatlan set up an insurgency among Bulgarian expatriates and defectors in Greece. The insurgency was eventually formed into a "Free Bulgarian Army" mounting attacks on Bulgar Rouge territory from Greece. The NPLA then carried out its first anti-insurgent operations and launched incursions into Greece proper.
This was met with rapid deployments of Cuscatlani troops and units from their ally, Inyursta. The clashes quickly escalated into a full-blown war. However, the NPLA found itself unprepared. Most of its 210,000 troops had been hastily drafted from communal squads a year earlier. Many of them had only minimal training and lacked basic equipment like helmets, flak vests, radios and night vision devices. With the exception of a few L-39 jets, a handful of MiG-21s and Mi-35 helicopters, the Air Force was non-existent. The Navy was crippled and early in the war defected to form a separatist coastal republic, but this rebellion was crushed.
Armoured vehicles in combat outside
Eventually the NPLA managed to continue the offensive, and despite very heavy casualties, kept advancing into Greece. Coastal regiments armed with anti-ship missiles also succeeded in knocking out several heavy ships of the Inyursta navy and prevented an assault from Romania. Eventually the NPLA reached the town of Alexandroupolis. In the battle of its outskirts, it achieved the most decisive victory of the war thanks to artillery support and improved tactics. The NPLA successfully encircled the town, killing and injuring tens of thousands of enemy troops and knocking out hundreds of armoured vehicles. The NPLA suffered more than 7,000 killed and injured and a massive collapse of its Nestos defence perimeter, but the Alexandroupolis operation succeeded in driving Gran Cuscatlan out of the war and achieved an armistice. Less than two years later, a new conflict erupted after the allies decided to launch a counteroffensive to liberate all of Greece.
The Fatherland War and the Continuation War were a wake up call for the NPLA on the value of naval and aerial assets, as well as strategic power projection. Since then, most units have been equipped with anti-air assets, a centralised command, control and intelligence system has been set up, and a number of new tanks, artillery pieces, aircraft and light weapons have been developed and deployed. The nuclear programme has been accelerated and it is now believed that the NPLA is in possession of at least a dozen warheads and is developing a thermonuclear device. It has also successfully tested ballistic missiles, expanded its air force (including early warning capabilities) and is deploying an increasing amount of heavy naval assets.
The NPLA is divided into five strategic commands - three Ground Force commands, an Air Command and a Naval Command. The Western, Northern and Southern Operational Commands of the Ground Forces cover the three principal operational areas of domestic defence. The type of structure of their composite units varies immensely. While the Northern Command is largely composed of small, mobile units on the brigade and battalion level, the Southern Command is almost entirely made up of division-sized units. These commands also operate the national air defence network and the strategic rocket assets.
NPLA unit structure is similar to the Soviet one in terms of composition. A tank division normally contains 355 tanks and 135 infantry fighting vehicles, supported by 72 artillery pieces and an assortment of supporting armoured vehicles. A mechanised division contains 164 tanks and at least 380 (normally 420) infantry fighting vehicles. State Security divisions contain a much smaller number of vehicles, normally one or two tank battalions of 41 tanks each.
A standard NPLA division holds five brigades of 3,000 troops. However, Northern Command brigade sizes vary from 1,900 to 3,500, with light infantry brigades usually only having 2,000 troops.
Training is extensive, repetitive and emphasising survivability of the smallest units. The NPLA heavily relies on flawless operation and harmonisation of platoon-sized formations to carry out very specific tactical tasks. Once interoperability and performance achieve desired levels in drills, the units proceed to the next level of instruction until organic operability of division-sized units is perfected. This grassroots mentality is at the core of the NPLA's doctrine for "organic defence of the people-masses", which perceives national defence as a whole.
Bulgarian military doctrine is unique in its emphasis on fluid chains of command and somewhat opaque understanding of warfare. The Bulgar Rouge do not perceive their society and nation-state, and by extension their military, as a pyramidal structure with a governing hierarchy. Instead, Bulgarian military mentality views the armed forces as a mere organisational mechanism (OM) that draws manpower from a uniformly egalitarian society where each member is sufficiently trained to perform all basic combat duties. War is not viewed as an extension of politics, but a policy in its own right. It is therefore waged by the revolutionary state with all means available, and all non-revolutionary entities are at permanent conflict - economic, ideological, and military - with the Bulgar Rouge. The army, however, is only tasked with resolving imminent theatre and tactical situations. The OM must adapt differently to each of these situations by selecting the most adequate instruments, units and technology to resolve an armed conflict. The result is a military force where Brother Number One is firmly commander-in-chief, but any commanding structure between him and his foot soldiers is inherently fluid and adapts to the situation.
Since the NPLA is an organic decentralised force, it cannot be expected to have all of its manpower and equipment standing on permanent combat alert. Many of its 260,000 troops are not stationed at barracks or permanent bases, but instead reside in their respective agricultural communes, detached from the rest of the unit.
To put order in a military of such unique structure, the NPLA works along the lines of its guiding military theory called the Three-Dimensional Combat Doctrine. At its core is a three-dimensional understanding of the conflict - temporal (time constraints), territorial (spatial and material constraints) and technological (constraints of equipment capabilities).
Building a temporal profile of the tactical and theatre situation basically sets the requirement on how fast the objectives should be resolved. The territorial layer of understanding defines the scope of the conflict in physical terms: how many units should be put on alert and thrown in combat, where they should be deployed, and which production assets should switch to wartime production in order to secure the most optimal logistical support (shortest and most secure supply routes). The technological factor dictates whether the most advanced technology available should be put in use, or if it can be conserved for another military situation later on within the broader perpetual conflict. If a situation can be resolved using favourable temporal and territorial conditions alone, advanced technology may not be required.
This doctrine provides a number of advantages over traditional militaries. First and foremost, it allows the NPLA to balloon in size and mobilise to its full potential in a matter of hours. Troops are immediately drafted from every commune and called to pre-designated rally points where they quickly constitute their unit in full strength. Second, it employs the capability of almost every commune to produce ammunition, basic small arms and rations, to optimise logistics. This allows the NPLA to have enough fully supplied light troops anywhere in the country until heavier units or technology arrive. Finally, the sheer spread of military assets across virtually the entire population makes strategic planning for the enemy extremely difficult. Resistance is organised in every inhabited location. An invasion of the Bulgar Rouge proper thus means that the enemy must mobilise enormous resources to effectively occupy the country and crush all resistance, while anticipating unacceptably high casualties for very little return.
The NPLA is the primary force implementing the Bulgar Rouge ideology in occupied territories. Depending on the characteristics of the targeted country and the long-term goals of the operation, there are four principal takeover and management approaches: simple occupation, supply control occupation, total population control, and Year Zero implementation.
Under the simple occupation terms, the NPLA imposes temporary military control of the local administration, conducting some purges and exemplary executions. Local infrastructure and society remain relatively unaffected, although commerce is limited in favour of supporting the NPLA forces, and industry is geared to produce some military supplies for the occupying force. Overall, this approach has rarely been seen and is often applied in territories where the NPLA does not plan to establish a long-term foothold.
Supply control occupation does not completely dismantle local administration either, but puts the entire food supply, water sources and farms of the local population under joint NPLA/State Security control. Dissent is immediately responded to with limiting food to disobedient populations as a form of collective punishment. Conversely, cooperating local settlements are rewarded with additional food supplies confiscated from those who resist. Villages and entire cities may be sealed off and starved to death if resistance there persists. Much of the supply chain is rerouted to NPLA needs, essentially guaranteeing that some of the occupied settlements will starve and be dismantled anyway.
Total population control refers to a harsh occupation by State Security units, which round up and execute the entire local administration, garrison most large settlements, set up roadblocks, cut off transport and communications, and implement a military-administrative local government. Once this hierarchy is established, populations are prohibited from leaving their current location. State Security administrators then proceed to build informant networks and proactively seek out and summarily execute not only active dissenters, but those with a personal record suggesting possible dissent. Food, hygienic supplies, industrial goods and fuel are put under strict control and rationed based on dissent. However, most supplies are confiscated and transferred to NPLA and State Security troops, ensuring scarcity and resource conflicts among locals. Usually this type of occupation either sets the stage for a Year Zero implementation, or the creation of a satellite state that is to join the Leftist Agrarian Revolutionary Union.
Implementing Year Zero is the final and most brutal form of occupation. It generally leads to direct incorporation of occupied territories into the Bulgar Rouge state, urban destruction and establishment of a self-reliant communal economy.
Its first phase, seeding (засяване), is reminiscent of total population control measures. Seeding, however, goes a degree further - the most dissenting communes are demographically purged. Family units are forced to submit all children under the age of 10 to the state with promises of providing food; children are then taken away to core Bulgar Rouge territories for political indoctrination. Subsequently, all males above the age of 10 in the targeted community are executed; women are drafted into forced labour units which spend time in prison camps until State Security geographic scouts identify the most suitable locations for new farming communes to be built; these labour units are then used to build the new communal infrastructure. Few of these women survive to become commune members. Less dissenting populations are processed under the standard Bulgar Rouge framework of breaking up family units and shuffling populations to ensure local bonds disintegrate. These resettlements are usually carried out quickly and under complete disinformation, such as "evacuation" or "food asylum" assurances, complete with issuance of false paperwork for membership in these "food asylums" and "safe havens". Communications are cut completely and money is no longer allowed to be used, instead, a coupon system is implemented.
The second phase of Year Zero implementation is the harvest (жътва). Shuffled populations are bused out to empty communes where they are instructed to begin agricultural work to sustain themselves, usually under the pretext that the food supply system has collapsed because of the war. Remaining industries are mobilised to produce uniforms, agricultural tools and other conveniences for the communes; most consumer goods industries are subsequently dismantled. Those that can be converted to military manufacturing are put under NPLA control, while State Security begins the establishment of informant networks within new communes, as well as the military administrative structure of the newly occupied territories.
The third phase, stubble burning (стърнища), involves the complete elimination of local intelligentsiya, the explosive destruction and bulldozing of urban settlements to ensure the irreversibility of "evacuations", destruction of almost all non-military motor vehicles, destruction of internet infrastructure, water piping and power to abandoned settlements, cutting power lines, closure of borders, and confiscation and destruction of all commune member personal items. Some items, such as medical equipment, are transferred from former cities to larger communes to ensure basic health coverage. NPLA patrol units are set up to ensure commune members stay within their communes and that curfews are maintained. All money is confiscated and burned; bank vaults are emptied in physical cash, which is then burned, or transferred to Second Economic Committee coffers if in foreign currency. Any supplies deemed useful are confiscated by the NPLA and the territory is slowly integrated into the Bulgar Rouge realm.
The final phase is winter supply (зимнина) and primarily focuses on propaganda efforts and indoctrination of commune members, as well as implementation of ideological principles according to local conditions. At this point, the NPLA is relieved of occupational duties and an ideologically competent local administration trained in Bulgar Rouge political academies takes over. Small NPLA garrisons and State Security units dedicated to curfew enforcement remain, much like in core Bulgar Rouge territories.
See also: NPLA Order of Battle
A NPLA T-72M tank during exercises. Other armour
can be seen in the distance.
The Army is primarily a light infantry force. It numbers 210,000 troops spread among 58 units of varying sizes. Nearly half of these troops are under the Western Operational Command, which only has 16 units, however. The 1st Guards Tank Division, the 68th Airborne Battalion and the 99th Youth Shock Division are considered the most battle-hardened and capable Army units. The 99th is particularly known for the zeal and brutality of its troops, drafted from all but the most loyal communes. The 1st is one of the few divisions that have commissioned officers and operates on permanent combat alert.
The Army is unique in having an autonomous sub-command, the Air Defence Command (ADC). All air defence assets are operated by Army units. However, under the Three-Dimensional Combat Doctrine, the autonomous ADC is responsible for "temporal planning". This means that in an emergency situation where only air combat is anticipated and nationwide AA coverage is needed immediately, the ADC has the authority to detach air assets from Army units and form new, temporary anti-air battalions corresponding to the intensity of the conflict. This is done to provide an additional degree of flexibility that would otherwise lack if each Army unit, with its own brigade and division-level SAMs and AAA, would have to coordinate with numerous ground units in facing a predominantly aerial threat. Conversely, if a conflict requires mostly ground troops but some air combat is expected, AA assets stay under Army control to protect those ground units that enter combat and operations with some degree of airborne risk. The territorial and technological planning of air defence, respectively logistics and maintenance or upgrades of the equipment, remain firmly in the Army.
Before the Fatherland War, heavy equipment was scarce or in disrepair. The standard issue armament of an Army soldier consisted of a "Pobeda" rifle with three magazines, two hand grenades, a rudimentary steel helmet, and a combat knife. At least 20% of the soldiers wore caps due to the insufficient capacity of the industry to produce helmets. Night vision devices, flak vests and ballistic helmets are still difficult to encounter, even if reserved for elite units. Other weapons used by Army troops include "Slana" and PK machine guns, SVD/"Bizon" and OVT-96 sniper rifles, "KPT-16" machine pistols, "August 16" and "PKT-75" rifles, RPG-7 and RPG-22 rocket-propelled grenades, 60-mm mortars and a variety of handguns, all used on a random principle and usually when standard issue weapons are not available.
Even though a brigade-sized tank unit operated in the NPLA, not all of its tanks were operational. The fleet was comprised entirely of some 100 T-72M tanks, maintained through cannibalisation of older vehicles. Mechanised units operated a mixture of some 450 BTR-60 "Pirin", BMP-1 and BMP-23 armoured vehicles, as well as improvised armoured jeeps and technicals. A handful of T-55s were in use. There were two known operational SS-21 surface-to-surface missile launchers with six spare missiles.
After the outbreak of the war and the subsequent mobilisation call, the NPLA received top economic priority and new weapons systems began pouring in. Bulgarian industry expanded and began producing a variety of armoured vehicles like "Rila" APCs, "Hala" multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), and "Imeon" Main Battle Tanks. Weapons were more evenly distributed and tactical and strategic organisation improved significantly. The military is still lacking on individual protection and firepower, and scarce communications and reconnaissance equipment significantly reduces battlefield capabilities.
"Imeon" is the NPLA's main battle tank (MBT). A heavily-upgraded T-55,
Armoured vehicles in the NPLA are unevenly distributed. Almost all BMP-2M infantry
203 mm SP
The NPLA is noted for its reliance on heavy artillery for both area denial
Multiple rocket launch systems (MLRS) form the backbone of NPLA
Most NPLA units are equipped with anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM).
Air defence systems
Unlike many other militaries, air defence is the responsibility of the Army.
See also: National People's Liberation Army Air Force
The National People's Liberation Army Air Force (NPLAAF) is the air arm of the NPLA. The NPLAAF is the most advanced branch of the NPLA, and the most secretive. Nominally the NPLAAF operates from two air bases - Balchik and Krumovo, used for jet aircraft and helicopters, respectively. In practice, these air bases are not functional as the aircraft there have not been maintained or crewed since the Revolution. Most of the pilots of the former Bulgarian Army have either defected or escaped during the early evacuations of August 2014, when it was obvious that the Republic of Bulgaria was no more. An entirely new, ideologically pure roster of pilots has grown and gained experience in a multitude of foreign conflicts since the Revolution.
MiG-21bis of the NPLAAF
Equipment holdings have increased significantly with the expansion of the Second Economic Committee's network. Parts and other embargo supplies have been procured through EU-registered front companies operated by Libyan intelligence, allowing the NPLAAF to procure both new aircraft and machinery for domestic manufacturing. The first domestically manufactured aircraft was the VS-1 Yatak ("aide"), a domestic Pilatus PC-9 clone for counter-insurgency operations. The NPLAAF has subsequently acquired other domestic aircraft, like Sukhoi Su-25MT "Kazuar" (Cassowary), Il-28AM "Goliat" (Goliath) and RS-500E "Ruchey" (Brook). Seven MiG-21bis were refurbished and modernised by Haruspex International Armaments in 2017. The Air Force further strengthened its fleet with a second round of refurbishments and upgrades in 2018, when 38 MiG-21bis, 7 MiG-21UM, 15 MiG-29B and 5 MiG-29UB entered service. The same year, 4 Tupolev Tu-22KPD long-range bombers were acquired from Russian reserve stocks and refurbished. In 2022, the Air Force numbered 235 fighters, 2 interceptors (shared with Democratic Sabha), 104 bombers, 130 ground attack planes, 8 early warning and control planes, 49 transports, 21 attack helicopters and 52 transport helicopters. A number of other aircraft have been withdrawn, but are kept in storage in varying levels of serviceability. Three Libyan-manufactured observation satellites, the OBZOR series, are operated by the NPLAAF and provide relatively accurate Earth observation.
Fixed-wing operational aircraft use agricultural air strips, of which Bulgaria has more than 150, in an effort to keep the fleet concealed and prevent it from being located and destroyed during aggression. Rotary-wing aircraft are kept in communal warehouses with folding roofs for the same reason. The NPLAAF resorts to extreme measures to conceal both its assets and chain of command. At least two underground airfields have been identified after heat signatures from ventilation systems were identified by satellite observation in the thermal infrared range.
NPLAAF headquarters have been stated to be in Special Establishment No. 56, but most foreign analysts consider this to be deliberate disinformation. An UCAV operations room and command is located somewhere near Pleven, presumed to be in the vicinity of the former Rocket forces HQ in Telish. Fuel and ammunition logistics, if any, are obscure. Two barrel bomb factories operate not far from Pazardzhik and Plovdiv; an unguided bomb factory is located in an abandoned university in Shumen, and unguided rockets are produced on the grounds of the former VMZ weapons complex in Kazanlak. It is unknown where aircraft factories are located. Scarce intelligence suggests all strategic weapons production of this kind has been moved underground. The NPLAAF operates Bulgarian strategic weapons, but under separate protocols.
See also: National People's Liberation Army Navy
The Navy is the least capable NPLA branch. Very few new vessels have been added since the Revolution. The frigates inherited from the former Bulgarian Navy were lost when their crews defected to the short-lived island republic of Sveti Ivan in the course of the Fatherland War. NPLA coastal artillery fire obliterated the rebel entity shortly after its formation, killing the frigates' crews and sinking the ships for good.
A domestic shipbuilding enterprise, Victory Shipyards, produces a limited number of vessels each year. The Type 60 corvette and the Fyon-class smuggling ship have been exported to some Bulgar Rouge client states and partners. Overall, however, the Navy remains a brown-water force. Satellite intelligence has identified six Type 60 corvettes, two Osa-II missile boats, 11 Fyon-class smuggling ships, and two submarines of unknown class in service. A handful of Exocet missile tubes, 170 mm guns and Termit launchers provide a limited coastal defence capability for naval installations.
General Ivan Vartopov - Western Operational Command
General Dimitar Penin - Southern Operational Command
Lieutenant General Rumen Kadurin - 2nd "Miziya" Guards Division
Lieutenant General Ivan Konstantinov - 7th "Radoynov" Guards Tank Division