Bulgaria is set to acquire 183 Stryker land vehicles as part of a Foreign Military Sales agreement with the US Department of State worth approximately $1.5bn (Lv 2.7bn) the Defense Security Co-operation Agency announced on 1 September 2023.

The Stryker family comprise ten variant models of eight-wheel drive combat vehicles of which Bulgaria has requested five – 107 Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs); nine Engineer Squad Vehicles; 33 M1130 Command Vehicles; 24 M1133 Medical Evacuation Vehicles; ten M1135 Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicles, among other supplementary equipment.

Stryker’s mobile gun system can fire 18 rounds of 105mm main gun ammunition, 400 rounds of 0.50-calibre ammunition and 3,400 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition.

The Stryker meets Bulgaria’s modernisation aims

The Bulgarian Armed Forces have key capability goals including the acquisition of new armoured vehicles such as the Stryker, new multi-role combat aircraft, modular patrol vessels, 3D radars and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

Bulgaria also aims to increase the quantity and complexity of joint training and exercises with its allies prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The most recent exercise ended last month in which Bulgarian and American air forces operated together in exercise Thracian Summer.

Balancing hurdles with modernisation

However, according to GlobalData intelligence Bulgaria faces significant challenges in maintaining higher levels of spending: corruption issues, political divisions and a struggling and technologically outdated defence industry are all hurdles to overcome before any substantial modernisation may take hold.

As it stands, there are an unknown number of armoured personnel carriers that Bulgaria’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) procured between the 1960s and 1990s, including the BTR-60PB and the MT-LB.

In the last ten years, the MoD has slowly expanded its armoured carriers and ICVs: 380 BMP-1s, 36 BRDM-2s and various other Russian-manufactured land systems.

However, since last year the tide has turned for the MoD leading them to procure western manufactured systems such as this $1.5bn Stryker deal. This is not the Balkan country’s first modern land system deal as the government procured 50 Humvee trucks manufactured by the American contractor AM General in 2008.