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Bulgarian Aircraft Markings

Last modified: 2006-06-09 by rob raeside
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Modern Roundel

[Bulgarian roundel] by Ivan Sache

The modern Bulgarian roundel has the classical concentric pattern, red - green - white, but the red ring is narrower than the green one. This replaces the previous design I sent a long time ago (with a vertical white bar through the disk).

Source: Album des Pavillons, correction # 30, July 1998.

Ivan Sache, 30 July 1998

History of Bulgarian Roundels

based on Cochrane & Elliott (1998) and


During the Balkan wars of 1912-13, large areas of the wingtips were painted green (port wingtip) and red (starboard wingtip). The aircraft rudder carried the national colours in horizontal bands: white-green-red reading from top to bottom. (
[can't see the wingtips.....but this is the only image from this era that I located -]

1915-mid 1918

Bulgaria joined World War I on the side of Germany in 1915. As virtually all of the aircraft operated came from Germany, the German national markings were retained, although in some instances a green stripe along the trailing edges of the wings was added.  (
[standard German crosses - see]

Mid 1918-1920

During the summer of 1918, a specifically Bulgarian national marking was introduced. This consisted of a black saltire cross on a white square. The marking was carried on the wings and fuselage sides. This marking does not appear to have been widely used, with most aircraft retaining German national insignia.
[This was the first appearance of the saltire -- to be seen again].


As reported in Cochrane & Elliott (1998) -- between 1918-1920, naval planes carried a triangle in the national colours and a black lion rampant. (
[No air force existed between 1920 and 1937.]


With the official establishment of a small air force in 1937, a new national insignia was introduced, in the form of a roundel in the national colours. The rudder marking is not known. It is also mentioned in Cochrane & Elliott (1998) but there was no plate. It could be the roundel of 1946 or its mirror, the current one.


In 1938, a completely new national insignia was officially introduced. This marking was based on the royal coat of arms and consisted of a rampant red lion on a red and yellow Maltese cross with two yellow crossed swords. On a few aircraft a red outline was applied to the fuselage roundel. The rudder marking consisted of horizontal stripes in the national colours - white, green and red from top to bottom. (


When Bulgaria joined World War II on the side of the Axis Powers in 1941, a diagonal black cross on a white square marking was adopted. This marking existed in at least two varieties -- with and without a thick black border. In addition, both varieties were displayed with and without horizontal rudder stripes in the national colours.

Two variants are presented by Cochrane & Elliott (1998) - and  with the only difference in the black border in the first and lack <?> to the white stripe in the second. It seems that the first was more in use. See and


The threat of invasion by the Soviet Union forced Bulgaria to change sides in 1944. The cross marking was abandoned and replaced by a roundel marking. The roundel comprised a white disc with a red disc in the centre and a green horizontal bar across the middle. On the aircraft wings, the green bar was aligned fore-and-aft in the direction of flight, rather than parallel to the wing, as might be expected. Horizontal stripes in the national colours extended across both the fin and rudder, in the order white-green-red from the top. (

[This time a real plane --]


Adopted at the same time as the above roundel marking, and eventually replacing it, was another roundel design. This roundel was much simpler, in that consisted of the three colours in concentric rings - white, green and red with white outermost and red in the centre. Horizontal stripes in the national colours extended across both the fin and rudder, in the order white-green-red from the top. (
[Exactly opposite to the current roundel.]


After the communist government took over, a new insignia consisting of a red star with the Bulgarian green-red-white roundel in the centre was introduced in 1948. Similar style markings were also introduced at the same time in Hungary and Romania. This marking was displayed in all six positions on aircraft (above and below each wing and on the fuselage sides) and was also used as a rudder marking. Helicopters carried it on the fuselage sides only. (

[Cochrane & Elliott (1998) show the inner roundel wrong - the center should be white and not red and the outer ring red and not white - the correct one is reported by Wheelock (1986). Many photos can be found - , , and interesting one at (with the star looking like Solomon's seal....)]


The main marking is normally displayed in four positions (i.e. on the fuselage sides and below each wing) on fixed-wing aircraft - but the MiG-29 and Su-25 don't carry fuselage roundels. The same marking is also used as a fin flash on fixed-wing aircraft. National markings are NOT carried on wing upper surfaces. Helicopters display the main marking on the fuselage sides and under the fuselage. No service titles are carried. (
[The website shows a thin red ring as we do above based on Album des Pavillons (2000). Cochrane & Elliott (1998) show a regular-size ring. I think that the thin ring is incorrect - see , and]

Dov Gutterman, 12 June 2004