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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
      Attached Files