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Monday, November 14th 2011, 11:36pm

Bulgarian Army Organization, 1941

Gentlemen, I've been working on the re-organization of the Bulgarian Army. I had planned some re-organization work for 1940, but this doesn't appear to have been fully published. In any case, judging from my notes, it wasn't a very good choice and I've got a better plan in mind.


Current (1939) Bulgarian Order of Battle
- 14 Rifle Divisions
- 2 Mounted Rifle Divisions (of different patterns, includes 3 armoured battalions)
- 2 Cavalry Divisions
- 5 Artillery Divisions
- 1 Naval Rifle Regiment
- 1 Independent Tank Company
- 1 Parachutist Company

At the moment, the Bulgarian tanks are lumped into a big three-battalion regiment paired off with two halftrack-equipped infantry regiments; there are two further training battalions which are equipped with FT-17s.


Proposed (1941) Bulgarian Order of Battle
- 3 Rifle Corps (3 Rifle Divisions each)
- 1 Artillery Corps (3 Artillery Divisions)
- 4 Armoured Brigades
- 1 Motor Grenadier Division
- 1 Naval Rifle Regiment
- 1 Parachutists Battalion
- 1 Cavalry Regiment (battalion-sized, ceremonial/police)
- Assorted smaller miscellaneous units

[SIZE=3]Rifle Corps[/SIZE]
The standard Bulgarian infantry unit - the Rifle Division - will remain mostly the same as that proposed by other nations: three rifle regiments plus an artillery regiment and supporting arms. All of the rifle divisions are theoretically capable of use as mountain troops, although some divisions are more capable than others in this respect. Increased emphasis will be given to antitank and antiaircraft units. Estimated manpower per rifle division is ~16,000 men.

In terms of equipment, all of the Rifle Divisions have converted to the modern Swiss-designed K31 bolt-action rifle. Investigation of the German MG33 squad machine gun in 7.5x55 Swiss caliber is ongoing, and the MG seems likely to be adopted. All of the remaining Rifle Divisions are now fully equipped with large quantities of military bicycles to increase their mobility. The attendant artillery divisions have been equipped with light mountain guns, including some 105mm guns of recent manufacture by Kazanlak, while others are Great War era 75mm guns rebuilt with split-trail carriages and towing wheels. The Army is working to phase out the older guns and replace them with newer 105mm howitzers.

Each Rifle Division includes a battalion-sized group of motorized Shturmovi Otryadi, or Stormtroops. This unit is a specialist infantry unit equipped extensively with submachine guns and semiautomatic rifles, and has specialist teams equipped with flamethrowers, machine guns, demolition charges, and sniper rifles. The Shturmovi Otryadi may serve in various roles, either as rapid-reaction troops to stop an enemy breakthrough, light infantry forces to protect an open flank, or as shock infantry to assault and seize a fortified position. These troops are all long-term volunteers with increased pay and better living conditions.

As per previous posts to that effect, much of the raw manpower of the rifle divisions are made up by the Swiss-style militia system, and the numbers represent mobilized wartime strength only. During peacetime, the manpower for each division fluctuates between two and twelve thousand men, depending on the division's training schedule.

[SIZE=3]Artillery Corps[/SIZE]
The Bulgarian Army will be reducing the overall number of artillery units, mostly through the retirement of old Great War era guns. Three artillery divisions will be maintained as the ARGK (Artillery Reserve of the High Command). The three divisions in this corps will be composed of three howitzer regiments, one heavy field artillery regiment, and one rocket artillery regiment. Each regiment has three artillery battalions with ~24 guns apiece, divided between four artillery batteries. All artillery units remaining at the end of this reorganization will be motorized, with appropriate amounts of trucks and artillery tractors. The Bulgarian artillery battalions are significantly larger than the artillery battalions found elsewhere in the world, as the low quantity of radios for observers makes larger groupings of artillery desirable.

Most of the guns of the Artillery Corps are Swiss or Bulgarian-built versions of the 105mm kanon M/34 designed by Bofors, or eclectic Great War era artillery pieces, much of it taken from old German or Austro-Hungarian stocks. The Czech 149mm K-4 heavy howitzer, built by Skoda, is also used. At the present time, the Bulgarian Army is closely investigating the towed German 15cm Nebelwerfer to equip three rocket artillery battalions. The mobility of the Nebelwerfer, with its ability to fire a barrage and then rapidly relocate, is seen to be a desirable way to supplement (but not replace) regular artillery. It is probable that the Bulgarians will use the German tables of organization and equipment for any new artillery units.

As with the rifle divisions, a significant percentage of the manpower is drawn from the reserves.

[SIZE=3]Armoured Brigades[/SIZE]
At the present time, the Bulgarian Army has five armoured battalions, with two of them being FT-17-equipped training units. Previously the three main armoured battalions (the ones equipped with the modern tanks) were massed in an oversized armoured regiment supported by mechanized or motorized troops, but this has been found to be unwieldy, and does not conform to current expectations of an ideally-balanced armoured force. As a result, the armoured troops will be completely restructured into Armoured Brigades, composed along the following pattern:


Bulgarian Armoured Brigade, 1941 Pattern
1 tank battalion (54 medium tanks, 16 light tanks)
2 infantry battalions
1 105mm towed howitzer battalion
1 heavy tank company (or assault guns)
1 self-propelled gun company (76.2mm)
1 mortar company
1 engineer company
1 anti-aircraft company (20mm)
1 anti-aircraft company (40mm)
1 brigade maintenance group

The standard Bulgarian tank is, at the present time, the Atlantean AT-36 with a 76.2mm main gun. A hundred and twenty tanks were acquired directly from Atlantis, while another sixty, originally with the 57mm gun were acquired secondhand and will be converted to 76.2mm. The Bulgarians also have forty-eight AT-33 infantry tanks, sixty AT-34 light tanks with a 25mm gun, fifteen AT-37 heavy tanks with a 76.2mm gun, and a large quantity of obsolete AT-17 tanks which are used for training. Bulgaria uses Danish-built halftracks to carry infantry, and has forty-eight Danish assault guns.

At the present time, four armoured brigades are planned for creation, with three of the brigades drawn from the former tank units of the 10th Mounted Rifle Division, and the fourth will be drawn from the independent tank companies formerly assigned to the infantry. Three of the armoured brigades will be created using the AT36/76 tanks, and one will be created with AT-33 tanks.

The towed howitzer battalion will, unlike most of the artillery units in the Bulgarian Army, be smaller in size, with four batteries of four howitzers (rather than four batteries of six howitzers). However, the battalion will be of the most modern equipage in terms of radios and doctrine. The self-propelled guns will ideally be built on the AT36 tank chassis. The mortar company will include both 81mm and 120mm infantry mortars, all capable of road towing.

The brigade maintenance group will be designed in such a way as to meet the needs of all the constituent units in the brigade's structure.

[SIZE=3]Motor Grenadier Division[/SIZE]
The Motor Grenadier troops (specifically the 5th Guards Division) are the continuation of the previous heavy infantry units of the Bulgarian Army. Their organization is similar to that of the regular rifle regiments, but they are equipped with vehicles (usually Pierce-Arrow trucks) and a higher quantity of automatic weapons. Unlike the regular rifle divisions, they have no attached Shturmovi Otryadi battalion, and have a mixed group of tank destroyers, assault guns, and armoured cars. Technically, these troops are considered "Heavy Infantry" or "Assault Infantry" and they are the unit designated by the Subranje to serve with international League of Nations deployments, if called.

[SIZE=3]Naval Rifle Regiment[/SIZE]
The Naval Rifle Regiment is a unit composed of Bulgarian Navy troops responsible for naval base security, riverine patrol, and coastal warfare, particularly on the Danube or Black Sea coast. Command alternates between the Navy and the Army depending on the setting of their use. The Regiment has two light infantry battalions and two security battalions, though this number would increase to three of each during mobilization. They operate a number of small river craft capable of amphibious landings, as well as light patrol vessels. They lack supporting artillery or anti-tank units, but have a very heavy grouping of mortars at the regimental level. The Naval Rifle Regiment also controls the Railway Artillery Battalion Sofia, with four twelve-inch and sixteen six-inch railway guns from the old battleship Sofia. The Naval Rifle Regiment, consistent with its Navy heritage, wears the blue and white telnyashka as part of their dress and field uniforms.

[SIZE=3]Parachutists Battalion[/SIZE]
The Parachutist Battalion (or Parashutna druzhina) is a light infantry style unit modeled on the German Fallschirmjaegers or the French Chasseurs de Parachutistes, and will probably use the table of organization and equipment from one or the other units. While the battalion will technically be called paratroops, it might perhaps be more technically accurate to call them "Parachutist-trained light infantry".

[SIZE=3]Cavalry Regiment[/SIZE]
This unit, also known as the Life Guards, is a large battalion-sized mounted unit which conducts a variety of ceremonial and security duties, including but not limited to serving as the protection detail for Tsar Boris, the royal family, and the heads of government, mounted bodyguard duties, security for the palace and parliament buildings, and protection of foreign embassies. In most cases they appear in the ceremonial red uniforms. The Life Guards are the default troops to send for parades in foreign military reviews or inspections.

[SIZE=3]Other Miscellaneous Units[/SIZE]
Some few small-scale units of company size or smaller are maintained for various purposes, including hospital units, independent supply companies, and such.

[SIZE=3]General Notes[/SIZE]
The four armoured brigades, the parachutist battalion, and the motor grenadiers division are all administratively grouped together in the Mechanized Corps. In peacetime, the Mechanized Corps composes the greatest portion of the Bulgarian Army's active strength.


Wednesday, November 16th 2011, 3:30am

The proposed reorganization seems to make sense to me. It's not completely clear how large the reduction in overall troop-strength will be, but it roughly as if two divisions-worth of infantry will be cut. Their cadres can certainly bolster the new armoured and motorised brigades, as they need a higher quota of serving troops due to their more complex equipment.


Wednesday, November 16th 2011, 3:51am

Much more than two infantry divisions - four rifle divisions, two cavalry divisions, and two artillery divisions will be merged into the remaining units. The way the armoured and mechanized troops are currently laid out, there's not actually many new units that must be created ex-nihilo; it's as much a matter of retasking them for more ideal use, and trimming out the units that are "dead weight" for Bulgaria's goals.


Wednesday, November 16th 2011, 4:05am

Hmm. It wasn't readily apparent that the reductions were that substantial. That would translate into rather effective savings in manpower and very likely free up funds for modernization. I think it's a very good plan.