Trip Report: National Museum of Military History, Sofia, Bulgaria

Located on a side road in a suburb of Sofia, Close to the Borisova Gradina Park. The National Museum of Military History documents the history of all three of the Bulgarian armed forces. With collections of naval guns and sea mines, tanks and military vehicles as well as a strong collection of aircraft and air defence systems.

Arriving through the gates off Han Omurtag Street, you’re strangely greeted by the only aircraft not operated by the Bulgarian Air Force on display. An ex-German Air Force Panavia Tornado IDS donated to the Bulgarian museum on the centenary of their air force by EADS. One could speculate this may have been a gesture of good will, when Eurofighter was being offered to Bulgaria as a replacement for the Mig-29? The rest of the museum exhibits have much more of a traditional soviet feel. However, a strange layout presumably set out as the museum has grown over the years exists, in fact it’s possible to view and photograph five of the aircraft without even needing to pay the museum entrance fee, as the first half of the museum is before the main museum building where you pay your entrance fee. The entrance fee is very reasonable, and dependent on what you want to see depends on how much you pay, external exhibits (which all the aircraft are) is just 4BGN the equivalent to £1.78/€2.04/$2.22 at today’s exchange rate, which is a bargain!

At the time of visiting (April 2023) the aircraft collection was in various states of presentation, The first aircraft you’ll come to is the Mil Mi-2 Hoplite this 1960’s designed transport and training helicopter saw service with the Bulgarian Air Force until 2005. The one downside of the museum is that the placement of the aircraft the Hoplite is located under a tree and is covered in tree sap. however further down the path past the Mil Mi-24D Hind you’ll come across two of the four Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 Flogger which along with the nearby Sukhoi SU-22M-4 Fitter are cosmetically immaculate, however on closer inspection there are signs that these aircraft have seen better days. Aside from the helicopters which are in desperate need of a jetwash as a minimum, some of the aircraft at the front of the museum are also in need of a fresh coat of paint. This surprised me as I’d have expected that those aircraft at the front of the museum would be displayed in the better conditions. Also found in the rear of the museum was a Lineage of Bulgarian operated Mikoyan-Gurevich fighters, comprising of three Fishbeds, a Farmer and a immaculate Faggot, you certainly can see the difference between the 1940’s designed Mig-15 compared to the much later built Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21bis LASUR.

From a photography point of view, I was shooting on a Canon 7D mk2 with a 10-18mm lens and didn’t struggle with composing any shots as overall there is enough room to get shots. Depending on the time of the day some shots you may be forced into shooting into the sun, however I didnt think this made my trip less enjoyable. Its certainly a museum that you could easily get away with just using the camera on your phone for. Overall, a great collection of Bulgarian military hardware, worth noting this isnt the main Bulgarian Air Force Museum, that is located separately at Plovdiv-Krumovo Air Base. For the entrance cost which is less than a pint of beer in any pub back in the UK it was well worth it, If you find yourself in Sofia its a must for any aviation enthusiast

29Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23UBA1038316
70Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23ML2.96E+09
108Mil Mi-24DU5089
205Mil Mi-25.63E+08
21Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21UM5.17E+08
221Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15UTI?
26Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23UBA1037856
303Mil Mi-8T10303
365Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21bis SAU75094365
44+13Panavia Tornado IDSGS077
501Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21bis LASUR75019901
511Sukhoi SU-22M-436511
525Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21bis LASUR75003025
63Aero Vodochody L-29 Delfin892941
67Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21PFM940MK20
72Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17?
867Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23MLA2.96E+09
939Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-19PM65210939

Report by Matt Sudol

© South West Aviation Photographers 2023