SOFIA, Bulgaria - Bulgaria's defense industry has escaped unscathed from the general economic crisis, with its exports hitting $380 million in 2011, Pressa newspaper reported Jan. 12.
It cited figures by the Bulgarian Defense Industry Association (BDIA). Such statistics are usually kept secret.
The organization, which groups Bulgaria's major arms and munitions makers, refused to specify where its sales went to.
The newspaper however cited Algeria, Afghanistan, the United States and Iraq as traditional buyers of Bulgarian light weapons and ammunition.
Bulgaria's defense industry exports had stood at $200 million in 2008, Pressa said citing data from the same association.
"It is still hard to compare the situation with the years before (the fall of communism in) 1989," BDIA co-chairman Stefan Vodenicharov told the newspaper.
Before the end of communism, Bulgaria's armaments industry was around 10 times the size it is now, employing 115,000 people and shipped abroad an annual $700 million to $800 million worth of armaments - at prices from then.
But the advent of democracy, the disbanding of the Warsaw Pact and a number of international arms sales embargoes to countries in Africa and the Arab world plunged the industry into a deep crisis in the 1990s.
The majority of production facilities have since been privatized with the government recently selling its remaining stock in the Arsenal Kazanlak light arms and munitions plant, the only licensed producer of Russian Kalashnikov assault rifles during the Cold War.
It had also prepared a strategy to soon put on the table VMZ Sopot, its biggest defense firm to remain fully state-owned.