A significant milestone in Bulgaria’s naval modernization journey was achieved as the MTG Dolphin Shipyard PLC successfully launched the first of its two cutting-edge 2,300-ton corvettes, recognized as multi-purpose modular patrol vessels (MMPV) 90. Under the stewardship of the esteemed German shipbuilder NVL Group (formerly known as Lürssen Defence), which is the prime contractor of this project, and with the active involvement of numerous Bulgarian suppliers, this launch signifies a remarkable stride in Bulgaria’s maritime capabilities. Named “Hrabri,” (symbolizing “Brave” in Bulgarian) this vessel stands as a testament to Bulgaria’s rich naval history, drawing inspiration from the early 20th-century torpedo boat of the same name. Its counterpart, the second ship, will bear the name “Smeli.” With dimensions of approximately 90 meters in length and a beam of 13.5 meters, these vessels, designated as MMPV 90 due to their size, are the outcome of a contract signed with Germany’s NVL Group on November 12, 2020, with a contract value of €420 million, excluding weapon systems and ammunition. A top speed of 24 knots attests to their impressive agility.
Parallel construction of the two vessels has been a remarkable feat. The initial steel-cutting for the first MMPV occurred on December 3, 2021, at MTG Dolphin in Varna, followed by the second vessel’s steel-cutting on December 14, 2022. Marking their keel-laying, the first MMPV’s keel was set on June 17, 2022, followed by the second vessel on June 22, 2023. The maiden voyage of the initial vessel is projected for the third quarter of 2025, while the second vessel is anticipated a year later. The vessels’ foundation is rooted in the NVL Group’s proven OPV-90 design, a development stemming from the Royal Brunei Navy’s Darussalam-class and the Royal Australian Navy’s Arafura-class vessels. These new ships are poised for diverse roles within the framework of NATO and EU alliance missions, bolstering the Bulgarian Navy’s capacity to counter air, land, surface, and undersea threats. The MMPV initiative is a cornerstone in the Bulgarian Navy’s modernization drive, augmenting an inventory largely composed of outdated Soviet designs and second-hand ships.
Elevating their defensive potential, the MMPV’s armament is nothing short of impressive for their size. It boasts an 8-cell VLS for MBDA VL MICA surface-to-air missiles, twin launchers for SAAB RBS15 Mk3 anti-ship missiles, an OTO 76mm SR gun, a Rheinmetall Oerlikon MILLENIUM GUN 35mm CIWS, and two 324mm torpedo launching systems. Anticipated electronic equipment encompasses the SAAB Sea Giraffe 4A multifunction radar with integrated IFF, SAAB CEROS 200 FCR atop the bridge, EOS 500 fire control director on the rear mast, and SAAB SME-series ESM on the forward mast, alongside two navigation radars and a hull-mounted sonar (HMS). Furthermore, the vessel is equipped with two Rheinmetall MASS decoy launchers, two RHIBs amidships, a hangar, and a flight deck for accommodating a Eurocopter AS565MB Panther helicopter, alongside UAV operations. Notably, the MMPV’s stern showcases a stern ramp for a large RHIB and the potential for a variable depth sonar and other equipment. The introduction of these advanced vessels marks a pivotal chapter in Bulgaria’s naval capabilities, solidifying their position within NATO’s Black Sea naval forces and ensuring enhanced security for the region and beyond.
the MTG Dolphin Shipyard PLC is located at the northern shore of Varna lake, right in the middle between Varna East and Varna West port, with unrestricted access to the Black Sea. A team of over 550 professionals with considerable experience in the industry, working hard for delivering quality shipbuilding, repair and docking service to customers from all over the world. Found in 1991 with main activity “ship repair of vessels”, MTG DOLPHIN Plc repairs between 40 and 53 vessels each year. In last 3 years 145 vessels have gone through different kinds of repair works. Production and resource capacity of the yard contributes to building of vessels of up to 16 000 tons, as well as repairs of vessels of up to 60 000 tons, using two floating docks with carrying capacity of 18 000 and 8 500 tons; 70 cranes with lifting capacity of 250kg to 80tons; 4 pier spaces, a line for preliminary preparation of steel plates and steel profiles, workshops and platforms.