On 17th June 2022, the keel of the first of two new Multipurpose Modular Patrol Vessels (MMVP) for the Bulgarian Naval Forces was laid with a ceremony. The vessel is named Hrabri, meaning “Brave” in Bulgarian.
The procurement of modern surface combatants to meet NATO Requirements were in consideration for a long time. These new MMVP’s will replace two Pauk (Project 1241P) and one Tarantul (Project 1241.1M) class corvettes.
While the details of information such as the armament, sensors and specifications have not been made public yet according to NVL, the vessels, which are around 90 meters long, with around 2,300 tons of displacement, are based on the proven OPV 90 design from the NVL portfolio and feature an integrated Combat Management System. The Swedish company SAAB announced in December 2020 that it was going to provide the combat management system for these ships.
The ships are going to be armed with one 76mm main gun furthermore four -probably European-made- anti-ship missiles, eight VL-MICA anti-aircraft missiles in vertical launcher cells, one Rheinmetall Millenium close-in weapon station, and lightweight torpedoes are among the weapons. The MMVP’s are going to be the first ships in Bulgarian Naval forces with a flight deck and a hangar and they will be able to accommodate the AS-565MB Panther naval helicopter in Bulgarian service.
The total volume of the MMPV project is around 420 million euros. Delivery of the first vessel is scheduled for the third quarter of 2025, and the second vessel a year later. The construction of the second ship will begin in early 2023.
It was high time for Bulgaria to invest in its naval forces. These are the first new warship constructions for the Bulgarian Navy for over a century.
Today Ukrainian Armed Forces are using Switchblade loitering ammunition from the USA, CAESAR self-propelled guns from France and NLAW anti-tank missiles from the UK successful again the invading Russian forces. None of these weapons was in the Ukrainian inventory at the start of the war. Ukraine and its Allies were able to deploy these weapons, train their users efficiently and field them against the enemy in a period of mere weeks.
Unfortunately, navies do not have this type of luxury. It takes a few years to build a new warship but takes generations to establish a coherent naval fighting organization. Even if one of the Allies of Ukraine would have donated one or more warships to help bolster Ukrainian naval Forces it would take months to properly train the sailors to efficiently use all the systems on board.
It is time for investment in naval forces. If Ukraine has a more capable naval force with larger ships carrying more sting it could have been easier to arm them with alternative weapon systems to counter the Russian blockage against the Ukrainian ports.
Unlike Ukraine, Bulgaria has the luxury of being a member of NATO. While NATO membership may provide a country with a fair amount of protection and security, it is never a substitute for investing in its own armed forces.