100 Years of Serbian Military Aviation

Batajnica, Serbia, 

1 - 2 September 2012




During the first weekend of September 2012, a century of military aviation in Serbia was celebrated  at Batajnica Air Base near Belgrade, the country's capital. The Serbian Air Force, Vazduhoplovstvo i protivvazdušna odbrana,  which is really the continuation of the former Yugoslav Air Force was established in 1912 with the commissioning of the first pilot officers trained in France. During the past century, Yugoslavia built up its own aviation industry which before the start of the civil war in 1992 was quite capable. Apart from this, the Yugoslav Air Force introduced a wide range of aircraft types from both Soviet as well as Western origin. This makes for an interesting air force which of course contracted enormously following the end of the civil war in 1999. 

However, much remains in the shape of ex Soviet MiG.21's and MiG.29's alongside indigenous  SOKO J-22's and G-4's. The air show also brought participants from countries like Russia, the US and Italy. All this made for a very enjoyable weekend, blessed by warm and sunny weather.


The main combat types in current Serbian Air Force service include the three seen above. They include MiG.21bis (left), MiG29 (centre) and SOKO J-22 Orao. The latter, looking something like a SEPECAT Jaguar, is a Yugoslav-Romanian cooperative development. Although already retired in Romania, the Serbian Air Force still flies a squadron of these Oraos.


Both former Yugoslav aircraft manufacturers were particularly adept at designing trainers. UTVA from Pancevo near Belgrade produced the UTVA-75 during the 1970's. SOKO from Mostar in what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina was specialised in jets, producing the G-2 Galeb (right) and the G-4 Super Galeb (centre). The Galeb shown was apparantly the last one in Serbian Air Force service. Fortunately, some are still around in a civil capacity. The G-4 Super Galeb is the Serbian Air Force's advanced jet trainer. 


The Serbian Air Force's helicopter fleet is a particularly good example of combining types from Eastern and Western origin. The light weight Anglo-French SA.341 Gazelle serves in the light observation and attack roles, with the larger Russian Mil Mi.8T (centre) and the later Mi.17 flying in the medium transport roles.


At least a single Dornier Do.28 Skyservant serves the Serbian Air Force as a light transport. Furthermore, there is a number of Yakovlev Yak.40's alongside the ubiquitous Antonov An.26.

Fortunately, many of the types shown on the ground could be viewed in their element as well. The air display kicked off with a mass flypast of formations of UTVA-75, Lasta 95,  Mi.8 and Gazelle, J-22 Orao and a mixed MiG.21/MiG29 formation. This was followed by an air power demonstration by J-22's attacking the airfield, covered by MiG.29's. Solo demonstrations included a G-4 Super Galeb as well as a UTVA Lasta 95, the intended successor to the UTVA 75, as far as Serbian Air Force trainers were concerned, with a pair of MiG.29's demonstrating the interception of a lone MiG.21UM. A quartet of Gazelle helicopters provided a rotary wing element for the flying display. The historical element was represented by civilian operated examples of the SOKO J-20 Kraguj and the G-2 Galeb.

Foreign particpation was provided by a Hungarian Gripen, a Russian MiG.29M2, an Italian Eurofighter and a Danish F-16AM as far as fast jets were concerned, with an Italian C-27J from the test establishment at Pratica di Mare flying its usual spirited display. Foreign trainers came from Austria and Slovenia with respectively a SAAB 105 and a Pilatus PC.9M.

Both Slovenia and Romania showed helicopters in the static display, these being an AS.532 Cougar and an IAR.330 Puma respectively. Of note were the two USAF F-16´s in the static display

especially with the wreckage of another one following a shoot-down in 1999 displayed in the Serbian Air Force´s museum near Belgrade´s airport.

The Russian Air Force's Striji (Swifts) demo team, rarely seen elsewise, thrilled the crowds with their maneouvres and flares. 


UTVA Lasta 95


SOKO G-4 Super Galeb


SOKO J-20 Kraguj






SOKO NJ-22 Orao, note the 1990's style roundel








JAS-39C Gripen




SAAB 105Oe


C-27J Spartan


SA.341 Gazelle


MiG.29, Striji Team


MiG.29, Striji team


AS.532AL Cougar


IAR.330 Puma


All pictures (c) Hans Rolink