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Serbian Air Force- Stuck at the crossroads.

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  • Serbian Air Force- Stuck at the crossroads.

    Today’s decision of Croatian Ministry of Defense, confirmed the rumors that began circulating a week ago, regarding the purchase of 12 Dassult Rafale F3R multi role aircraft.

    With this acquisition Croatia will be in the top tier air-force in the Balkans, surpassing the Hungarian Air Force, currently operating SAAB Gripens and Romanian Air force operating F-16 block 15, at least until Bulgaria receives their F-16’s Block 70. This course of development places Serbian Air Force far behind in almost every dimension, regardless of the upgrade programs that it undertook for its aging fleet of MiG 29, purchased and donated by both Russia and Belarus as well as the upgrade program for the J-22 strike aircraft. In addition, the ever increasing tensions between West and Russia, place the SAF in a difficult position in terms of logistics and training, let a lone in the attempts of modernization or even acquisition of new air craft. Serbian MiG 29 are 9.12,9.12 A and 9.13 blocks, which means that their potential of upgrade is very limited and can be raised to the some form of SM variant. Also, the air frames have relatively little life left in them, circa 10 years.

    The proposed price tag for their upgrade is 130 million dollars which is hardly justified investment.

    In other words, Serbian MiG-29 are no match, upgraded or not, for Croatian Rafales.

    Problems that arise form this course of events are many and in itself carry the seeds of possible future conflict, which is why I think that this could be an interesting topic to cover, because from what I was able to gather, the nature of the problems that SAF faces do not differ much from the problems that other AF’s have. Also SAF suffers from some very unique issues that are not applicable to other air-forces and are quite weird in nature.

    So, without further a due, meet the S.A.F.

  • #2
    On May 21st, Serbia officially retired its fleet of MiG 21 aircraft, after 58 years of service. This left Serbian Air Force fleet with 14 MiG-29 and 16 J-22 attack aircraft as the main offensive component. In addition there is also a fleet of 14 G-4 jet trainers that can be converted for light ground attack role. Further more, there is newly acquired fleet of Chinese CACS CH-92 UCAV’s. This composition of air frames, points out that the Serbian Air force, sees CAS and low level strike missions, as its main mission. In contrast to the fixed wing aircraft, helicopter fleet has been significantly strengthen and upgraded, with the acquisition of Mi-35 attack helicopters and Airbus H-145 multi role helicopters. To this, additional 29 SA-340 Gazelle fleet, needs to be added.

    At the present time, the modernization of J-22 attack aircraft is one of the main projects of Serbian defense industry, colloquially known as J-22 V 2.0 in the media. This modernization is deep and it is focused on a 2 seat variants of the aircraft. Its main goal is the improve capabilities of the aircraft by adding new avionics, targeting and navigation equipment as well as integrating new types of precision guided munition.

    As media reports, the main armament of the J-22 V.2.0 will be newly developed AGM VRVZ-200, in 200 mm caliber with the operational range of 40 kilometers (when launched from the altitude of 8 km) and it has a 50 kg warhead. The missile has an inertial guidance system and in the terminal phase it relies on TV or thermal imaging camera for targeting acquisition. The missile has a data link with the aircraft via the ASVL-500 pod.

    Other missile that is also in focus is the AGM VRVZ-24, 240 mm caliber, 123 kg warhead with the operational range of 10 km, when launched from the altitude of 4 km).

    Aircraft is also capable of carrying a wide variety of bombs and unguided rockets, most of them of Western origin, such as AGM-65 B Maverick, Durandal runway bombs, BL-755 cluster bombs and various types of soviet era bombs.

    The history of J-22 is full of controversies.

    The project started in the 70es and was purely political in nature. The main mission of the aircraft was propaganda. During the 70es, first cracks began to appear in the fabric of Yugoslavia and the communist leadership, needed urgently to restore confidence in the Yugoslavian way of life, communist party and the faith in the president Tito’s rule. Tito was a proxy dictator that skillfully balanced between East and the West in order to remain in power. However, he wasn’t immortal and during the 70es his was on a dying side of life. In order to reassure the public regarding the vitality of the system that he represented, the idea of a supersonic military aircraft was born. One that will show the world that we can deal with technological challenges. The fact that sound barrier was broken by Chuck Yeager back in 1947 was of no concern, since the message wasn’t intended to the parts of the population that can read and write, but to the “less fortunate” majority, whom was starting to fell stagnation anxiety.

    Since the matter was urgent, there wasn’t time for true development of the air frame so the Yugoslavian government decided to take a short cut and acquire blue prints via its spy network. Allegedly it succeed by acquiring some of the blueprints for the SEPCAT Jaguar.

    It was clear from the start, that Yugoslavia will not be able to develop the aircraft such as Jaguar. So the new project kept the initial layout, twin engine, high wing configuration. For the power plants, the aircraft got the Rolls-RoyceViper 633-47 turbo jet engines, western avionics and ordinance. It appeared at the time, that Yugoslavia was leaning more and more towards the NATO than to the Warsaw pact. It seemed so until it decided to up.

    During the 70es, the situation in the Middle East was heating up and there was an real threat of serious energy disruptions. Combined with the growing urban population, Yugoslavia decided to build a big ass dam on the river Danube on its border with Romania. So in order to secure the deal, Yugoslavia also made a defense contract with the Romania of building a new aircraft. Yes, the J-22 which in Romania became known as IAR-93 Vultur. Since Yugoslavia bought the license to produce Viper-633-47 and now had a cooperation with Romania, this meant that Romania was an Warsaw pact country that operated full standardized NATO airplane. Needles to say, the British were furious and this was a mistake that they didn’t forgot till this day.

    At the end Yugoslavia got the aircraft and the dam.

    Since this F..up happened, the aircraft development was halted and it remained under powered and under developed. Since the metallurgy was primitive, the aircraft was heavy. But since it was never intended to be of any military use, that wasn’t a big deal. It was specifically designed to fly fast at low level, but not because it needed to do deep interdiction strikes, but to amuse the crowds and re assure the ones whom had the doubts in the reality of Yugoslavia. It was an Potemkin show off air frame.

    Luckily for it, the breakup of Yugoslavia will actually show that J-22 can fly and can deal a lot of damage, especially in Bosnia, during the “Operation Corridor 92”. That operation was J-22 prime time where its potential was fully used. Bosnian Serbs were flying sortie after sortie until finally the corridor was secured and the link with Serbia established. During the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, J-22 were used despite the loss of air supremacy, with only one aircraft being lost due to either mechanical failure or KLA ground fire.

    Not only that the J-22 could deal a lot of damage it could also take a lot of punishment, thanks to its sturdy construction. Also its construction proved to be air worthy. Originally it was planned to last 24 years but after inspection it was concluded that its actually twice as much, which is why it was chosen for the upgrade program. The aircraft is relatively easy and cheap to maintain and its long service ensures that there is no shortage of mechanics that can service it.

    All in all, this aircraft happened to be a very happy accident.
    Attached Files
    Last edited by Versus; 28 May 21,, 23:27.


    • #3
      Old and new cockpits for the J-22
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      • #4
        Before the hysteria regarding the new Russian stealth starts (spoiler alert, its a solid meh) here is the j 22 low pass.


        • #5
          Second in line of domestic air frames is the G-4 "Super Seagull ".
          Following the overall advancements in technology and the need to upgrade its fleet of aircraft during the 70'es, Yugoslavia embarked on another project, aimed to produce advanced jet trainer with light ground attack capability. Since it was somewhat less demanding than the J-22, the G-4 was easier to conceptualize and engineer, mainly because the role of the aircraft was more clearly defined. The first prototypes were completed in 1978 and the testing began. The maiden flight happened 1983 and shortly after, the aircraft entered the service where it remains till this day. The aircraft is powered with the same power plant as its predecessor, the G-2, the Viper 632-46 with 17,8 kN of thrust but thanks to the different and more advanced aerodynamics it outperforms the G-2 substantially. The aerodynamic layout is classical, resembling the British Hawk, its a low wing monoplane with one vertical stabilizer, fixed elevators and swept wings without anhedral layout.

          The aircraft is 12,25 meters in lenght, with the wingspan of 9,88 meters and 4,03 meters in height. The wing area is 19,5 square meters. Maximum speed is 920 km/h (491 mph) in a clean configuration and at 13.000 feet (6000 km). Its cruise speed is 550 km/h (340 mph). Stall speed is 97 mph or 180 km/h.
          In the light ground attack role, aircraft is armed with a gun pod, containing the gsh-23, gast operated 23 mm twin barrel cannon. Under the each wing it has two hard points that can take various types of ordinance, ranging from unguided bombs and rocket pods.

          During the 90es, it was planned for the aircraft to be upgraded with two additional hard points, new avionics and two infra red seeking missiles at the wingtips for self defense. That version had an M, for modernized added to its name. However, wars of the 90es sealed the fate of that modernization. Again, during the 2000 there was another attempt to upgrade the aircraft, this time with more digital avionics but that project faded away in favor of J-22, which was judged to be more suitable airframe for modernization.
          Attached Files
          Last edited by Versus; 20 Jul 21,, 23:21.


          • #6
            Some photos of G4 and its modernized variant (only for testing)
            Attached Files


            • #7
              During the wars of the 90es, G-4 saw some combat usage. In total 3 aircraft were lost due to ground fire while several of them were damaged. The Yugoslavian Air force quickly realized that G-4 was more valuable as a trainer and that other air frames should take the combat roles. Nevertheless the airframe proved to be quite sturdy, The G-4 with the serial number 23725, lost its vertical stabilizer three times during the war but was repaired and returned to service. During the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, 23 of them were destroyed on the ground, including the complete Yugoslavian airforce's acrobatic team. As a personal experience, during my deployment in Kosovo, I saw two of them flying low over our heads and 10 seconds later there was an F-14 right behind them also in a low level pass. It was surreal situation in a way and the bad day for the cat, cause it didn't got the kills that day.

              Unfortunately such luck was nowhere to be found with its older brother G-2, in a light attack variant, the J-21, which was the aircraft with highest number of losses. Despite that the J-21 did some amazing missions during the war.
              Last edited by Versus; 25 Jul 21,, 19:40.


              • #8
                The J-21 is a single seat, light attack aircraft, developed from G-2 Seagull trainer aircraft which can be seen here with F-22's ( ) at Tyndall AFB in Florida. I am not sure but I think that this one belongs to John Travolta. The G-2's are claimed to be very fun aircraft to fly and are praised and loved by many pilots around the world, due to their flight characteristics and low maintenance costs. The airframe is sturdy and very forgiving . This is due to the fact that the G-2 was the first domestic jet that was adopted by the Yugoslavian military and it was a bit over engineered. Its origins can be traced to the F-84 Thunderjet, which was a primary ground attack role aircraft for the Yugoslavia at the time.

                This is an old bird, its first flight on July 3rd 1965 but it still flies and it is the primary aircraft for the Serbian Airforce acrobatic team. Several of them fly here, as a civilian aircraft.

                The development of J-21 started as a the replacement for the Thunderjets. In the mid 60es the F-84's started to show its age and Yugoslavia in its many political shifts, was leaning from the west towards Soviet Union so in order to avoid possible problems with its combat aircraft, it started developing its own jet. It uses R&R Viper 531 jet engine with 13, 32 kN of thrust. The aircraft is 10.88 meters in lenght, with the wingspan of 10.56 meters and the height of 3.64 meters. Total wing area is 19.43 square meters. Maximum speed is 820 km/h with the cruising speed of 740 km/h. G load limits are +8/-4. The aircraft is armed with two 50 cal browing machine guns and on 8 external hard points it can carry 1320 kg of ordinance in total.
                Attached Files


                • #9
                  Operation Deny Flight, February 28th 1994.

                  In 1992, during the withdrawal of Yugoslavian Federal Army from Bosnia, due to certain logistic errors, one battery of M-87 MRLS *Hurricane* was left behind in the weapons production facility, located in the city of Travnik. At the time, the M-87 was the most powerful land based weapon system in the arsenal of Yugoslavian Federal Army. With its 12 barrel 282 mm rocket launchers and the 50 km of effective range, this weapon system was very potent piece of hardware. At the time of Federal Army withdrawal, these systems were incomplete but in January 1994, Serbian intelligence was starting to get information that the systems are being completed and that the manufacturing of rockets has begun. In February, those intelligence reports were confirmed as true. This course of events, prompted the Bosnain Serb military leadership to devise a plan to destroy the launchers, rockets and the production facility, because M-87 could seriously shift the balance towards the Bosnian Muslim side. The clock was ticking and a mission planning was put into action. Considering the fact that the targets were located deep into the enemy territory, airstrike was chosen as the best option. However, the NATO has declared the no fly zone over Bosnia and that placed this whole operation under a great risk. However, M-87's threat posed a bigger risk so the operation was green lit.
                  It was decided that the pilots needed to be strictly volunteers and all eight pilots from the 105 fighter bomber squadron from Republika Srpska Krajina (Croatian Serbs) and 92 combined air brigade (Bosnian Serbs) , answered the call. They were transported from Banjaluka to the Udbine airbase, on February 27th. In order to remain undetected as long as possible, the low-low flight plan was adopted with terrain following. This meant increased fuel consumption and lower speed but it did offered better chance for the success of the mission. All pilots were made aware that this mission could be an one way mission. Regardless, they all accepted it.

                  In the early morning of February 28th, all was set. Units for electronic surveillance, radar crews and other combined assets, had a complete overview of the Bosnian airspace and were monitoring the NATO communications. The communications were established with Banjaluka and the signals for "go"/"no go" were set, depending on the position of NATO aircraft. However, at that crucial moment, when the time for the take off came, there was a miscommunication with the command center. The person on the other side, didn't know the code words for the operation and that prompted the fears that the plan was busted which lead to the immediate commencing of the operation. So at 6 am, the entire group, of six j-21 and two j-22 took off from the the Udbine aribase.

                  After 21 minutes into the flight, they were picked up by the NATO AWACS and one of the j-22 pilots spotted the F-16. He informed the J-21 flight lead about it, whom confirmed that he also saw the F-16. The decision was to proceed with the mission.

                  All six j-21 attacked the weapon production facility in Travnik, destroying the factory and the M-87's, while J-22 attacked and destroyed ordinance production facility.

                  That was the time when F-16 engaged them. According to the NATO sources, F-16 launched the first missile (I think that it was AMRAAM) at 6:45 and than two Sidewinders, at 6:47 and 6:48. Considering that J-21 doesn't have any kind of warning system or counter measures, all three missiles destroyed the aircraft. Fourth J-21 was hit by sidewinder from another F-16. Three Serbian pilots were killed due to failure to eject or the parachute failure to deploy due to low level flight. Fifth J-21 had a ground collision. Only one damaged J-21 was able to return to base. J-22's also returned safely.

                  Two USAF F-16's, (F-16 block 40, number 83-2137/RS and F-16 block 40, number 89-2009/RS) on that day, scored the first air victory in the history of the NATO.


                  • #10
                    Going back in time, during the 50es, Yugoslavia experimented a lot with the jet technology and some quite exotic aerodynamics...
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                    • #11
                      Out of which the 453 mw was designed for Batman
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                      • #12
                        Going further down the timeline, we reach the prop age. The dive bomber with pilot laying was thought to be a great way to reduce G loads. Until the time to jump out of the aircraft came.
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                        • #13
                          First fighters, domestically built after the WW2 were S-49 and S-49 C
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                          • #14
                            S-49 was actually an further development of IK-3 fighter from the WW2 era.
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                            • #15
                              Before IK-3 there was a seagull wing, monoplane, which was the first fighter aircraft produced by Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
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