The history of Bulgarian air power

The name of Dimitar Nedialkov is very well known to all Bulgarians, interested in Bulgarian aviation. Much of the available books on this topic are written by the military pilot and recently a professor in the Military Academy „G. S. Rakovski“. Though, his major work without any doubt is „The history of Bulgarian air power“, first published in Bulgarian on the 100th anniversary of Bulgarian air force.

history of bulgarian air powerA remarkable impression in the beginning of the book is the repetition of the word „first„. And it’s quite not accidental. Few people are aware of the fact, that Bulgaria is among the first nations in the world, that managed to asses the potential of aircraft for military use.

The first combat flight of Bulgarian aviation is in the skies over Odrin on October 15, 1912, executed by Radul Milkov and Prodan Tarakchiev. But the „firsts“ are about to continue. A month later poruchik (lieutenant) Milkov did the Europe’s first successful aerial photography attempt in wartime.

And there were many other firsts as well… The first simultaneous reconnaissance flight, Europe’s first intentional and recorded delivery of munitions from the air, history’s first aerial bombing of an enemy capital city, etc.

Detailed description and stunning photo archive makes the reader feel literally a contemporary of these first steps of Bulgarian aviation 100 years ago.

Nedialkov marks the country’s participation in World War I, when Bulgarian airmen had to prove themselves in a direct clash with the enemy, who rapidly started to make use of the new combat instrument. The aerial fights of the young Bulgarian aviation are described, and the author gives more data of all used types of aircraft during the war until the bitter end with the Treaty of Neuillly, 1919. The Treaty required Bulgaria to cease existing of military air force.

The chronological story of Bulgarian air force continues with the interwar period (1919 – 1939), where the accent is creation and development of Bulgarian aircraft manufacturing in the plants of Lovech and Kazanlak. Once again, great photographs on each page – beside his personal archive, the author has published also archives of Bulgarian Ministry of Defence, veteran pilots, etc., which makes the book a unique collection.

Heinkel51Bulgarian Heinkel He-51, Royal Bulgarian Airforce, 1937

In 1941, when World War Two had already set the world on fire, Bulgaria declared „symbolic war„to the Allied. Hard days were coming for the Bulgarian airmen. This period, although vastly examined by many authors, in this book has been systematized, describing in details all combats of Bulgarian pilots against the more powerful and numerous enemy. The heroic actions of Dimitar Spisarevski, Petar Bochev, Stoyan Stoyanov and other brave men found place among all disadvantages of our weak in technical aspect aviation. When the Red army entered Bulgaria in September 1944, Bulgarian aviation had plenty of outdated aircraft, quite insufficient for modern warfare.

Another new beginning and a long road until the outdated German aircraft was replaced with Soviet jets in the after-war years. MiG-15, MiG-17 and MiG-19 jet fighters, strategic bombers Il-28, were ruling the skies over Bulgaria for long years ahead. Many of the photographs, used here, are published for a first time.

The book ends with a look to the Bulgarian air force nowadays, as part of NATO and EU. With all the problems, challenges and opportunities. Although based extremely on facts, the book brings the author’s huge love for the aviation, which has marked his whole life. And these final pages actually describe the period, when Nedialkov also is one of those pilots, serving in the Bulgarian air force.

Celebrating a honorable 100th anniversary of Bulgarian military aviation, this book will not lose any of its attraction even after new 100 years. A must-read for all aerial combat lovers, history fans and aviation researchers.

Unfortunately the book is available only in few bookstores, but you can find it in The Aviation Bookshop and Aviation Megastore. Of course, Amazon. In Bulgaria it’s available in Greenwitch bookstore and Hobbycult.

Book review by Georgi

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