Bulgaria's New Helicopter Defense Leader in NATO

Politics | September 29, 2005, Thursday // 00:00

For the first time ever Bulgaria became a leading country in NATO's helicopter defense, Simeon Nikolov, Deputy Minister of Defense, announced Thursday.

The minister, along with NATO's Admiral Mario Bartoli, witnessed the test of a new Bulgarian helicopter defense invention earlier this week.

The defense system was created as part of a NATO project that Bulgaria volunteered for. As part of NATO's Counter-Terrorism Technologies Programme, nine projects were announced for country members to start working on, six of which were claimed. Bulgaria took up Helicopter defense from Hand-held Anti-tank Grenade launchers (RPG).

RPGs are a serious problem, said Colonel Nikolay Yankov, Bulgaria's Chief of "Armament and Techique Policy" Directorate and the country's procurement chief with NATO, and explained: "Because they are easy to carry, could take down a helicopter flying low, and terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq have thousands of them. "

Bulgaria's solution to this problem is a set of shield plates, created from an unique alloy, that are mounted on helicopters in order to protect them. During Tuesday's test, the defense set proved successful in 80% of the cases, Yankov said. Bulgaria has an alloy that would hold up in 100% of the cases, but it is far too heavy to mount on a helicopter.

The unique defense system was created by scientists from the Institute of Metal Science of the Bulgarian Academy of Science upon request by the Ministry of Defense and with the assistance of experts from Greece and Poland. The project was a big hit since no other country has been able to invent an effective RPG defense for helicopters and many international companies are already interested.

This is a big success for Bulgaria, not only because the country has achieved what many others have failed at, Yankov commented, but also because it has managed to do it with limited resources and after such a short period of NATO membership.

It was a project that required a serious amount of coordination and know-how exchange between countries, Yankov said.

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