Once bitten, twice shy

Since the outbreak of hostilities in 1991 the airforce of former Yugoslavia has seen action in a number of conflicts with breakaway federal republics. The war with NATO in 1999 left much of the infrastructure of the country's armed forces in ruins. Under a new name, Serbia and Montenegro, and with new leaders the country hopes to join the Partnership for Peace programme soon. With all the combat experience it has, a NATO-membership could benefit both the alliance as well as the country.

The following is an exclusive photoreport from a country rarely visited by aviationphotographers.

A weathered NJ-22 Orao over Ladjevci's treshold


Yugoslavia took delivery of a large number of MiG-products bearing the typenumbers 21 and 29. Currently the MiG-21bis is the backbone of Serbia's airdefence. The MiG-29s were attacked both on the ground and in the air during the conflict with NATO resulting in only five examples remaining today.

The 126.lae flightline at Batajnica One of the four remaining MiG-29Bs

Orao: The rare bird

Most people who visited the 'Serb invasion'-page on this website will know the J-22 Orao has shown up at a few airshows in Eastern Europe during 2003 (and also during 2004). It remains an impressive and increasingly rare aircraft with only the airforces of Serbia & Montenegro and the Republic of Srpska operating them.

Although the Orao might seem in the twilight of its career it will be flown through Serb skies for considerable time to come. Considerable upgrades are planned.

A J-22 Orao sporting the Tigerhead of 241.lbae


A rare INJ-22 reccetwoseater at Ladjevci

A J-22 Orao undergoing maintenance at Ladjevci

One of the twoseat Oraos of the Batajnica-based squadron

Orao-pilot at Ladjevci

Orao users

The Oraos are operated by three squadrons. Two fighterbomberunits, one at Batajnica and one at Ladjevci, and a reccesquadron also based at the latter airbase.

The reccesquadron, 353.iae, uses the few remaining IJ-22 and INJ-22 Oraos from the first batch produced. They have a non-afterburning engine.

The two fighterbomberunits operate the J-22 and NJ-22 aircraft. A number were lost during the conflict with NATO including one during a bombingmission.

The type first flew in 1974 so celebrated its 30th anniversary during 2004. The author is confident it will also live to see 40!

Patch of the 98 fighterbomberwing 241 .lbae Tigers 252.lbae with the difficult name from Batajnica Orao patch The recce squadron 353.iae Sokolovi from Ladjevci

Yak-40 of the transportsquadron


The transportsquadron based at both Batajnica and Nis operates the An-26, Yak-40 and Do-28D. The latter type in particular is seldom seen outside the country. A single examples still flies from Batajnica for aerial-photography.

Do-28D at Batajnica

Mi-8 transport with radartransmitter/receiver above cockpit
Gazelle helicopter


Surprisingly; the airforce only operates two types of helicopters. The indigenous Gazelle is used for a variety of tasks. The same goes for the Russian-built Mi-8 Hip. Both types can be found at almost every operational airbase in the country.

A Super Galeb flightline during a flyingday


Unfortunately most of the G-2 Galeb jettrainers were lost during Allied Force in 1999. What remains is the Utva 75 for basictraining and the Super Galeb for advanced training. The future helicopterpilots use the Gazelle to learn the tricks of the trade.

The Super Galebs are also on strength of the Orao-squadrons at Batajnica and Ladjevci. They are cheaper to operate than the J-22. The Super Galeb is capable of attacking both air- and groundtargets with a wide array of weapons. An updated G-4M is undergoing tests with the VOC testunit at Batajnica.

I would like to thank LtCol Zoran Puhac for realising the visit. Also many thanks to all the other personnel who made the stay in Serbia and at the Serb airbases as pleasant as possible!

©Robin Polderman 2004