Following the announcement that the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense (MoD) will acquire 50 to 100 armored vehicles between 2021–2023 for its special operations units, at a cost of $30.2m;

Stelios Kanavakis, Defense Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view on the announcement:

“This is an important step for the Bulgarian Armed Forces’ modernization process and the support that the government wants to provide to the indigenous defense industry. The company set to benefit the most from this strategy is Samarm – a joint venture between the Bulgarian company Samel-90 AD and the UAE-based International Armored Group (IAG), established in May 2018. The contract is an important first win for the joint venture, as it will allow it to gradually grow. 

“The Bulgarian Army’s inventory is predominantly comprised of Soviet-era equipment, which should be replaced by new equipment that would improve jointness with NATO’s members. Therefore, it is expected that additional contracts will be awarded to the company in the near future. Future awards could be expected from 2021, as the Bulgarian MoD is determined to move forward with its modernization plans despite delays caused by COVID-19. Furthermore, the decision to directly contract Samarm also stresses the urgency for new equipment, as it will shorten the procurement time compared to an open tender.

“It is important to note that the NATO specifications of the vehicles are a key element for the future of Samarm’s growth and most importantly for IAG. Through the establishment of the joint venture, the UAE-based company entered the NATO market, which is highly competitive, comprising of many major or smaller manufacturers. It is also following strict standardization regulations, which often prohibit suppliers from entering the competition. Through the production line in Bulgaria, a NATO-member state, and the award of the contract, IAG will be able to expand in other countries, both within and outside the alliance. It will also be able to compete with another UAE company, Nimr Automotive, which already cooperates with the Czech Republic’s VOP CZ, offering the Ajban 440A light multirole vehicle.”