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Lürssen Group has signed a contract to build two patrol boats for the Bulgarian Navy. From the scarce information available, it can be deduced that the “Multipurpose Modular Patrol Vessels” (MMPV) mentioned in the Bulgarian communiqué could be a derivate of the Lürssen OPV 90, though no comments were received from the company. According to the Lürssen-Defense website, OPV90 is a helicopter-capable surface unit of 2,100 tons displacement, measuring 90m in length and 14m in width. Possible armament configurations include:

  • Artillery: 76 mm or 57 mm, plus two 20 mm guns
  • Ship-Ship-missiles: either four MM40 EXOCET, four RBS 15 or four Naval Strike Missile.
  • Air Defence: either Vertical Launch System MK56 or Rolling Airframe Missile.

The boats will be built by the Bulgarian MGT Dolphin shipyard in Varna and delivered in 2025 and 2026 with the 984M Leva (approximately €503M) price also including training. For the German shipyard group this is an important acquisition with Damen, Fincantieri (both of which have local branches in Romania) and Naval Group jostling in the region for naval shipbuilding contracts. Damen Shipyards Galati, Romania has built more than 40 vessels for the defence and security segment, according to a company statement. Recently, PNS TABUK, a corvette of the Damen OPV-1900 series, was delivered to the Pakistani Navy.

Bulgaria is in the midst of a wide-ranging modernisation plan its the armed forces. In 2019, Sofia ordered eight F-16 Block 70s from Lockheed Martin, six single-seat fighter jets and two two-seater aircraft, including training and arming. By 2024, according to the national plan from 2017, the country aims to meet NATO’s target of a two percent share of defence spending in Gross Domestic Product. In 2020, 1.93 per cent is expected compared to 1.25 per cent in 2015.

Hans Uwe Mergener