Serbia and Montenegro
"Ratno Vazduhoplovstvo i Protivvazdusna Odbrana Serbia and Montenegro"
"Faith in own skills"
The skies over Belgrade are filled with a distant rumble. A small dot over the horizon makes clear there are flying activities at Batajnica airfield. A half hour drive from the center of Belgrade the silhouette of a MiG-21 marks the entrance of this major Serbian air base. The jet noise is clearly hearable from behind the trees. One thing is for sure. After the 1999 war the Serbian Air Force is still alive and kicking.
Yugoslavia as we have always known consisted of Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Slovenia and Montenegro. After the Second World War Yugoslavia was reunited under the Partisan (communist) leader Marshal Joseph Tito. At that time it operated a mix of Soviet built combat aircraft including Pe-2, Il-2, Yak-1, Yak-3 and Li-2, British built Spitfires and Hurricanes and also a small number of German and Italian war booty aircraft. Soon new Soviet built aircraft were delivered including Yak-9 fighters. Also former RAF aircraft were received like Tiger Moths and Harvard IIBs. In 1948 Yugoslavia broke up its ties with the Soviet Union and became a non-aligned country. As the Soviet-Union threatened to invade Yugoslavia it turned to the west. In late 1950 Yugoslavia joined the US Military Assistance Program. Deliveries of aircraft from NATO countries started soon, the bulk from the USA and the United Kingdom. Initial deliveries consisted of surplus World War II aircraft and included F-47D Thunderbolts, Mosquitoes and C-47s. In March 1953 the first T-33A jet trainer was received. More jets came from the USA in the form of F-84G Thunderjets and at least 20 RT-33As. More Thunderjets followed late fifties when Greece received the F-84F Thunderstreak. From 1956 the YuAF received the first of 121 Canadair F-86E(M) Sabres (M for modified). These were ex Royal Air Force Sabres returned to US charge, overhauled and modified in the United Kingdom to F-86E(M) standards. The number included also ex Italian Air Force Sabres delivered later. In 1961 130 ex USAF F-86D Sabre all-weather interceptors followed. Also more T-33s were received in 1959 in the form of ex US Navy TV-2s (T-33). A number of F-84G and T-33As were converted to reconnaissance aircraft with cameras in the wingtip pods, designated IF-84G and IT-33A. From 1963 about 30 F-86Ds were converted into reconnaissance aircraft designated IF-86D. The first helicopters in PV i PVO service were 10 Westland (Sikorsky) S-51 Mk.1B Dragonflies, followed by the Westland WS-55 Whirlwind (Sikorsky S-55), a type that was also built in license by Soko.
During the fifties Yugoslavia became one of the strongest nations in the Balkan region. When in 1956 relations with the Soviet Union were normalised, relations with the USA became looser and finally in the early 1960s the USA stopped all MAP deliveries. Nevertheless western aircraft were still acquired on the commercial market. From 1962 the Soviet-Union started aircraft deliveries, however small numbers of western aircraft were even received after 1962 and included four ex USAF T-33A in 1976, and four T-33s from the Belgium Air Force in 1980. These aircraft were converted to TT-33 target-tugs.
In addition to Soviet built transports like the Il-14, Il-18 and An-12 Yugoslavia continued to acquire western built transport aircraft. These included two Douglas DC-6B, which were replaced by two Boeing 727s in 1975. In 1978 two Gates LearJets 25Bs were received. A sole Caravelle IV-N presidential aircraft was in service from 1969-1980.
Indigenous (Domestic) Jets
After the Second World War Yugoslavia had established a large domestic weapon industry. Indigenous designs were produced in large numbers by the Soko factory in Mostar in Herzegovina and the Utva factory in Panvevo, Serbia, and even exported to several third world and non-aligned countries. Also overhaul of aircraft of middle eastern and African Air Forces like Iraq, Sudan and others was done by these factories.
G-2A Galeb (Gull) 23252 from VOC (Vazduhoplovni Opitni Centar).
The Air Force
The first of the indigenous designed jets to go into series production was the Soko G-2A Galeb (Gull). It made its first flight in May 1961. It went into service in 1965 (Yugoslav Air Force designation N-60) and was delivered to the Air Force Academy, fighter and fighter-bomber schools and replaced the piston engined trainers like the Soko 522 and complemented the T-33. The Galeb had wing strong points for two 100-kg bombs and six 57-mm rockets and two 12.7 mm guns were fitted in the nose. A total of 120 Galebs was delivered to the RV i PVO. Libya bought 112 (other source mention 120) and six were delivered to Zambia.
The Soko J-1 (J-21) Jastreb (Hawk), that made its first flight in 1970, was a single seat version of the Galeb with a strengthened airframe and a more powerful engine and was a replacement for the F-84G Thunderjet. It had three 12.7 mm. guns in the nose and four pylons for rocket pods and bombs. The Soko designation for the Jastreb was J-1. Of the Jastreb also 30 IJ-21 (Soko RJ-1) reconnaissance Jastrebs with wingtip camera pods and NJ-21 (Soko TJ-1) Jastreb trainers were built for the RV i PVO. Eight J-21 were later converted to IJ-21. Six J-1E/RJ-1E trainers were scheduled for export to Zambia but were never delivered. These were diverted to the RV i PVO.
line-up of MiG-21s.
MiG-21UM 16155 returns from a mission.
Still wearing the old Yugoslavian markings MiG-21bis 17229.
As the local aviation industry could well design and produce jet trainers and light attack aircraft, at the time fast jets were a bridge too far. To replace the F-86 Sabre interceptors Yugoslavia turned to the Soviet Union for the MiG-21. Deliveries started in September 1962 with the first batch of MiG-21F-13s. As the Soviets wanted to keep the designations of the MiG-21s secret a local designation system came into use. The MiG-21F-13 was designated L-12, L for Lovac or hunter. Later improved versions of the MiG-21 were to follow. Of all versions of the MiG-21 a total of 264 are reported to be received by the RV i PVO.
In the 1980s the MiG-29 was selected to replace the by then obsolete MiG-21 in the air defense role. In 1986 fourteen MiG-29s (L-18) en two MiG-29UBs (NL-18) were ordered. Deliveries started in October 1987 with the two MiG-29UBs and were completed during 1988. The single seaters are type 9-12B a somewhat downgraded export version for non-WARPAC countries. Due to the political changes in both the Soviet-Union and Yugoslavia no follow on orders were placed.
204.lap/127.lae "Vitezovi" (Knights)
Two photos of MiG-29 (L-18) 18108 .
J-22 Orao (Eagle)
In 1974 an agreement was reached between Yugoslavia and Romania to develop and to build a new close-support and ground attack aircraft with reconnaissance and air defense capabilities. The project was allocated to CNIAR in Romania en Soko in Yugoslavia. It became in Romania the IAR-93 and in Yugoslavia the J-22 Orao (Soko designation J-2). The Orao resembles the size and layout of the SEPECAT Jaguar. The prototypes made their maiden flights in both countries on the same day, the single seaters on 31 October 1974 and the two-seater on 29 January 1977. Pre-production of 15 aircraft in each county began in 1978 and series production started in 1978. The Orao 1 had non-afterburning Rolls-Royce Mk.632 Viper engines. As engines with afterburners were not available at the time this resulted in an underpowered aircraft. The RV i PVO Orao 1s were built as unarmed reconnaissance versions. Without the weight of the cannons it was able to fly without the afterburners. The Orao 1 can also be recognized by the "strakes" on the nose. Only from 1986 the Roll-Royce Viper Mk.633 engines with afterburner became available so production of the Orao 2 started. The Yugoslavian AF did receive the Orao in four versions:
Orao 1: IJ-22 (RJ-2) reconnaissance 10 pre-production, followed by 15 production aircraft, INJ-22 (RTJ-2) trainer five pre-production and five production aircraft. Of these eight single seaters and six duals were later converted to Orao 2.
Orao 2: J-22 (J-2) fighter bomber and NJ-22 (TJ-2) Orao 2D trainer.
The J-22 en NJ-22 are fitted with two cannons and lack the strakes on the nose cone. The collapse of the production in Yugoslavia during the civil war had also its effect on the Romanian production line of the IAR93. Production of the Orao and IAR-93 stopped after the Mostar factory was abandoned.
Lađevci - 98.lbap
241.lbae "Tigrovi" (Tigers) - J-22 Orao and NJ-22 Orao
353.iae "Sokolovi" (Hawks) - IJ-22 Orao and NJ-22 Orao
J-22 Orao 25113 with 98.lbap tiger badge.
NJ-22 is the two-seater version of the Orao.
The reconnaissance version is called IJ-22 with a photo pod beneath the fuselage.
Over the years the Utva plant in Pancevo has developed a range of light utility aircraft and trainers. The Utva-60 and the improved Utva-66 were received by the Yugoslav Air Force in the 1960/70s but were withdrawn by the late 1990s. The Utva-75 side-by-side two seat airplane made its first flight on 19 May 1976 and 139 are reported as built and delivered to the Yu AF and aero clubs. The Utva-75 can also be used as a light attack plane carrying bombs and rockets. In the Air Force it is still in use as a basic trainer and liaison aircraft. Besides jets the Soko factory also developed a small lightweight close support aircraft, the J-20 Kraguj (Soko P-2). It went into service in 1970 but was withdrawn in the late 1980. However during the civil war it was used by the Bosnian Serbs. The J-20 has an armament of two 7.7 machine-guns and wing strong points for bombs and rockets. 43 were built for the Yugoslav Air Force. As a successor to the Utva-75 the Lasta (Swallow) trainer is under development since 1982. The first prototype Lasta 1 made its first flight on 2 September 1985 and the second in 1986. The cockpit is basically similar to that of the G-4 making pilot transition easier. It was followed by the Lasta 2 development which was stopped. The project has now been restarted as the Lasta-95 for which exists a requirement of 15 aircraft. The prototype is planned to make its maiden flight in 2005.
A SA.341 Gazelle of 890.mhe “Pegazi” (Pegasus) based at Batajnica.
SA 341 GAMA 12719 is part of 714.prohe “Senke” (Shadows) and based at Ladjevci.
This Mi-8T (HT-40) of 890.mhe “Pegazi” (Pegasus) operates from Batjanica.
SA.342 Gazelle (HN-42M Gama) 12936 with the "IR code". This code refers to the agreements about fixed numbers of aircraft part of the Dayton Peace Agreement of 1995.
First helicopter in PV i PVO service was the Westland (Sikorsky) S-51 Mk.1B followed by the Westland Whirlwind (Sikorsky S-55). Soviet equipment followed in the form of the Mil Mi-4 (1960-1972), 15 Polish built Mi-2 were bought in 1969. The Mi-2 was withdrawn in 1981 after a relatively short service career when the Gazelle replaced it. From 1968 the versatile Mi-8 was delivered. At least 90 were received. Remarkable is that no passenger or salon (Mi-8PS) version with square windows were acquired. In 1972 Aerospatiale delivered 21 SA-341H Gazelles to the Yugoslav Air Force. In October 1971 Soko acquired the license rights and circa 167 were built of the SA-341 (H-42) and SA-342 (H-45) versions for the Air Force and the Police. Variants included circa 60 HO-42 observation helicopters, 21 HI-42 Hera reconnaissance (artillery direction) helicopters with a radar under the tail boom, five HS-42 rescue helicopters and the HN-42M Gama attack helicopter. Soko developed the armed GAMA (Gazelle Maljutka) variant of the Gazelle for anti-tank duties. This version can be armed with four 9K11 (AT-3) Maljutka missiles on twin rails on the pylons on both sides of the fuselage. Versions of the improved military variant the SA-342 Gazelle include 27 HO-45 observation and 40 HN-45M Gama.
Following the death of President Tito the unity of Yugoslavia came under pressure and nationalist forces gained strength. From 1991 the situation escalated. In June 1991 Slovenia declared itself independent. The RV i PVO flew missions in support of the federal forces in Slovenia, which were withdrawn after a few days of fighting. Croatia followed Slovenia in declaring independence and soon fighting also erupted in the Vojna Krajina region. From August 1991 the federal armed forces launched an operation against the Croats supported by the RV i PVO with close air support and transport flights. The federal forces gradually withdrew to Serbian ethnic territory. A truce was signed with effect from 3 January 1992. By that time Croat forces had shot down 23 aircraft and helicopters. In March 1992 war erupted in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In April and May that year two MiG-21s, two G-4s and three Jastrebs were shot down. The government in Belgrade decided to withdraw all federal forces to Serbia and Montenegro by 19 May 1992. A new state was formed called the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). All bases west of the Drina river were vacated by the RV i PVO and a percentage of the equipment was handed over to the local Serbs. The local Serbs continued the fighting until 1996.
During these conflicts many aircraft were lost and a few were flown by defectors to enemy territory. Due to the international arms embargo the Air Force was not able to acquire spare parts on the open market. As far as possible this gap has been filled by the domestic aviation industry and overhaul center at Batajnica. Unfortunately production of spare parts could not keep pace, so parts were getting rare. As a consequence the serviceability of the aircraft became poor. With aircraft lost or damaged in combat operations, no new procurement, technical and serviceability difficulties due to spare part shortages the Air Force went into a downward spiral.
In October 1995 the Dayton Peace Agreement was signed. In line with the agreement the strength of the FRY was limited to 155 combat aircraft and 53 helicopters. As a result all aircraft surplus to requirements were phased out before the end of 1996. These included the remaining obsolete Jastrebs and many Galebs. Also other older types up to the more modern versions of the MiG-21 were phased out. 65 aircraft were donated to the Air Force Museum at Belgrade International Airport, compromising nine MiG-21s, two G-4 Super Galebs, 13 J-22 Oraos, 10 G-2 Galebs and 31 J-21 Jastrebs. Other aircraft were reclassified as non-combat aircraft and disarmed including 17 Galebs at the Air Force Academy, 21 Super Galebs (N-62Sh) and nine MiG-21UM (NL-16Sh). Dozens of Gazelle helicopters and Utva-66 aircraft were sold on the civil market, as were eight Galebs and three Jastrebs. Twelve MiG-21bis and MiG-21UMs, in need of overhaul, were stripped for spares.
After to the Dayton Pease Agreement redundant equipment was also handed over to the newly founded Republica Srpska (Bosnian Serbs). This Serbian part of Bosnia-Herzegovina received a substantial number of aircraft and helicopters from the RV i PVO. In March 1997 they had the following on charge: 20 Gazelles (of all versions), circa 12 J-21 Jastrebs, one G-4 Super Galeb, 10 J-22 Oraos en 12 Mi-8s.
In the period 1992-1996 in preparation for a possible future membership of NATO the PV i PVO squadrons were restructured in line with NATO standards. From the typical eastern bloc squadron strength of 12-14 aircraft on paper this was increased to the NATO standard of 24 aircraft for a squadron, although squadron strength may have never reached that level. Currently it is in most cases lower except for 126.lae with the MiG-21.
Allied Force, the Kosovo conflict
In March 1998 turmoil started in Kosovo with a clashes between the Serb police and Albanian rebels. Initially a clash was avoided in October 1998 due to an agreement. However trouble continued and triggered by the situation in Kosovo NATO went into action against Yugoslavia in Operation Allied Force, which started on 24 March 1999. During 2,5 months of war 30% of the Air Force RV i PVO strength was lost, including half of its combat aircraft. Most were destroyed on the ground. NATO claims that six MiG-29s were shot down by NATO fighters. Four by USAF F-15Cs and a single example by a Royal Netherlands Air For F-16AM and one by an USAF F-16CJ. However RV i PVO sources state that four were shot down and two lost in inexplicable circumstances. The MiG-29s had nearly no change against the NATO fighters. Despite due to the arms embargo and the resulting spares shortages they were however flyable but basically unserviceable. Some MiG-29 went into the air with for example no working radar, INS or RWR. The MiG-29s flew 11 missions and two pilots lost their lives.
Losses on the ground included 24 out of 37 MiG-21s at Pristina-Slatina, 11 survivors were flown to Batajnica following the Peace Agreement signed on June 11. At Podgoridca 26 aircraft were destroyed when a tunnel shelter complex was set on fire by a bomb that exploded close to the not properly closed entrance. During this incident G-4 Super Galebs and all but one of the Galeb 2As of the Air Force Academy were destroyed. These included also the seven G-4 Super Galebs flown by the national aerobatic team Letece Zvezde 'The Flying Stars'. Other losses were 3 An-26, 3 An-2TD and four MiG-29 single seaters and a MiG-29 trainer destroyed on the ground. Unique was the use of MiG-29 decoys. These were made of wood with some metal parts. Several MiG-29s claimed by NATO as destroyed on the ground were in fact these hastily built decoys. NATO claimed 15 MiG-29s as destroyed on the ground, but actually five were hit. Most aircraft were moved to underground shelters and also aircraft and helicopters were dispersed to reserve bases.
Over a period of 10 days 31 missions were flown by J-22 Oraos and G-4 Super Galebs at high speed and very low level. Also reconnaissance missions were flown by both the IJ-22 Orao and the MiG-21R. Pending the conflict most valuable equipment and material had been removed from the air bases and was stored on secure locations. During the NATO campaign the (reserve-) airbases were severely hit destroying and damaging the infrastructure. However after the war repairs started quickly and airfields like Batajnica and Ladjevci were re-opened within a year after the war. Hangars and buildings with severe damage are still in ruins, for example the headquarters building of 204.lap was destroyed and the unit has now moved into an adjacent building.
Total personnel loss was around 40 men, many of which were serving with SAM units. The military are proud that they could hold out for 2,5 months against a far superior force and react to the NATO actions with a sense of humour. An example is that the floor of a former hangar, still with shrapnel damage and steel beams of the frame being cut off a ground level are being referred to as "virtual hangar". Many areas on the air bases are still not safe to enter because of remaining cluster bombs. Special equipment is on order to clear the munitions however.
The current situation of the air force is as follows:
Fighter and fighter bombers
One regiment 98.lbap is equipped with fighter-bombers, and has two squadrons 241.ibae at Ladjevci, and 252.lbae at Batajnica. Both are equipped with mix of the surviving 17 J-22 Orao 2 fighter-bombers, seven NJ-22 Orao 2 trainers and a number of G-4 Super Galebs. 36 Super Galebs are in service and are shared between the three jet bases, with the bulk at Golubovci for training.
252.lbae also had three target-tow N-62Ts, which is now reduced to a single example the 2nd G-4 prototype 23005. Both 98.lbap and 241.lbae have a tiger head as a badge. For the 2004 Tiger Meet an invitation was received to visit but was turned down due to lack of funds
At Ladjevci also the sole reconnaissance squadron 353.iae is based. This is a direct reporting unit. The squadron has eight IJ-22 and two INJ-22 Orao 1s on charge. The IJ-22 has a centerline reconnaissance pod with a mix of western and Soviet technology. 353.iae used to have a detachment at Batajnica with the few MiG-21Rs, but the type was withdrawn in December 2003.
Air Defence is provided by 204.lap at Batajnica with two squadrons: 126.lae with 31 MiG-21bis and six MiG-21UMs. An average of 20 is available to fly. In the summer of 2004 the first major post-war overhaul of a MiG-21 was completed by maintenance personnel of 177.vb (Batajnica Air Base) with help of the MOMA (the Moma Stanojlovic overhaul center). Conversion is planned of two MiG-21bis into reconnaissance configuration as MiG-21bisR, replacing the retired L-15M a MiG-21MF modified in the mid 1980s with a LORAP (Long-Range Aerial Photography) reconnaissance pod.
Until recently 127.lae was the operator of the MiG-29. The surviving five MiG-29s were grounded in April 2004 awaiting a decision on their future. They are in need of a major overhaul for which they have to be returned to the manufacturer. The MiG-29 pilots have since been grounded, not even flying other types and with no simulator available have no means of training. 204.lap had in September 2004 66 pilots, but had received no new pilots since the 1999 war.
Transports and Helicopters
The transport aircraft of the RV i PVO are operated by 677.trae at Batajnica. The squadron has 32 pilots most are ex fighter jocks who have a medical problem and now continue as a transport pilot. Five An-26 out of 15 originally delivered are in use for general transport duties. Only one serviceable Yak-40 is on charge and is fitted with a VIP interior as a presidential transport with 17 seats. The standard Yak-40 has 24 seats. The other three Yak-40s were damaged during operation Allied Force and were recently sold. Two will be repaired to flying status the third will be used for spares. Two Do-28D-2 are also on charge. In the past the Do-28D-2 was also used for VIP flights and para-dropping. The sole flyable example is just used on behalf of the Military Geographic Institute for mapping. It is equipped with one camera and two operators. The grounded example of the Do-28 is currently for sale. With a detachment at Nis where occasionally an An-26 and a few An-2, the latter have been grounded recently. A single impounded ex Ugandan Boeing 707 was on charge up to 1997 when it was sold. Besides the sole military Yak-40 there are also two Yak-40s in use for flight checking by the SUKL - Savezna Uprava za Kontrolu Letenja (Federal Directorate for Air Traffic); these are based at Belgrade International Airport. In the past they were under partly military control, but now SUKL is in the process of being separated from its military ties.
Nowadays two types are in service. Circa 30 of the sturdy Mi-8 and circa 70 Gazelles in several versions. The Mi-8 is the tactical transport helicopter and also operates in the Medevac role with a large red cross on a white circle. Four Mi-8s are reported as modified to HT-40E, an Elint version with a sensor mounted on the cabin roof and a radar radome under the nose, plus a radar on the starboard side of the fuselage.
890.mhe at Batajnica has 50 pilots, 11 Mi-8 and 18 Gazelle helicopters for various tasks including anti-tank/attack, Medevac, VIP Transport.
Currently pilots fly an average of up to 40 flying hours with a minimum of 20 per year, a number regarded as to low compared to the average of 150-200 before 1990. Night flying is 25% of the flying hours.
Flying training was ceased during and following the 1999 war but was started again afterwards. Training is conducted from Kovin near Belgrade and Gubolovci in Montenegro. For basic training the Utva-75 is used, for advanced training pilots pass on to the G-4 Super Galeb. Fighter-bomber pilots fly 2-3 years on the G-4 Super Galeb and then continue to the J-22 Orao, conversion from the G-4 to the Orao takes 10-11 flying hours. The G-4 Super Galeb is regarded as a good trainer, but the Orao is more stable in flight whereas the G-4 is more bumpy. Moreover the Orao 2 version has more power. Pilots are graded from 5th to the highest grade 1st class. A 5th grade pilot performs basic training in daylight, duties of a 1st class pilot includes DACT (Dissimilar Aircraft Combat Training), night flying, formation and air to ground firing. MiG-21 and MiG-29 pilots are 3rd class and higher.
VOC, Vazduhoplovstvi Optini Centar - Aviation Test Centre. (Flight Test Center on their website!).
Although VOC is connected with the Air Force, this unit operates independent and is of full value. It conducts testing and verification of aircraft, airborne equipment including avionics, modifications (upgrades) and weapon systems.
VOC has three Divisions:
Flight Tests and Research Division;
Flight Tests and Operation Division;
Measurements and Data Processing Division.
Current projects include:
Composite rotor blades for the Mi-8;
Aircraft noise measurement;
Testing of airborne parachutes.
VOC has a syllabus for test pilots and as training school VOC has the same qualifications as the ETPS in the United Kingdom and EPNER in France. Test pilots are drawn from operational units, and are selected following a competition between the candidates. The syllabus for test pilots is one year. Compared to other test centers VOC is small, it has 15 test pilots and 40 engineers. VOC has a hand full of aircraft and helicopters on permanent assignment including the sole surviving Air Force G-2A Galeb, the prototype of the G-4M Super Galeb, NJ-22 Orao, Gazelle and Utva-75. As required aircraft and helicopters are loaned from other units. The VOC tests and certifies weapons on domestic designs and on types like the MiG-21. Both local produced and western weapons are tested and certified. For weapon testing the Polygon range near Podgorica in Montenegro is used. In the future VOC has the ambition and hopes to become a regional test center and test pilots school. In the region there is not yet such a facility. With the current professionalism and enthusiasm at VOC this aim is sure to be achieved.
This Soko NJ-22 Orao is part of VOC with 98.lbap badge.
Soko G-4M Super Galeb 23646 in white color scheme.
Soko G-4M Super Galeb 23005 is with "IR code".
Since the regime of Slobodan Melosevic was overthrown in October 2000, this marked the beginning of a transition period towards democracy and the end of international sanctions.
In February 2003 Yugoslavia ceased to exist and continued as the Union of Serbia and Montenegro. This Union would like to join the European Community and NATO. With the relatively stronger Western background of the country this process is likely to be smoother then it was with the former WarPac countries. Now almost six years after the Kosovo conflict the Union is a transition period. The political intention is to join the Western democracy, but national feelings and the opposition to the Yugoslavian tribunal in The Hague, the Netherlands, are the two main reasons why this process is difficult and therefore is going very slowly.
The economy of Serbia and Montenegro still recovers from the wars. The current situation means that, although the process to clear the remains of the wars has a high priority, a lack of funds will delay it. Due to limited overhaul capability caused by damage inflicted during the 1999 war, lack of funds for maintenance and spare parts. And by expiry of service life, the serviceability of aircraft is about 25-30%. Nowadays experienced pilots fly an average of up to 40 hours per year. It is only enough to stay qualified on the basic elements of flying. The Air Force realizes that such a low number of flying hours automatic leads to a shortage of quality. Now that the Moma Stanojlovic maintenance depot is working again availability is expected to increase.
A major step forward was done in late 2003 when an official request was sent to the Partnership for Peace program in Brussels to join this program. Recently the Air Force participated for the first time in a Partnership for Peace exercise. In September 2004 a Mi-8 with a VOC crew were at Szolnok, Hungary, for the Partnership for Peace Co-operative SAREX 2004 during which they participated in joint practice search and rescue missions.
As another move towards international co-operation during 2003 and 2004 VOC pilots participated in several air shows in the Czech Republic and Hungary with G-4 Super Galebs and NJ-22 Oraos. In August 2003 even the sole Galeb G-2A went to the Kecskemet Air Show in Hungary.
Depending on the budget it is planned to replace the current fighters and fighter bombers by a single supersonic multi-role type with BVR, Beyond Visual Range missiles and reconnaissance capability. New combat and transport helicopters to support Special Forces in the anti-terrorist role are a great priority.
Despite budget restraints the motivation of the pilots and other personal is still very high. They have faith in the future knowing that their country will have the chance to be integrated in the European Union and in NATO in the near future. They also hope to obtain modern western aircraft. The consequence that the current Air Force has to be reorganized with less people and equipment available is widely accepted.
Now after the war and tensions in the region have eased the Air Force RV i PVO (Ratno Vazduhoplovstvo i ProtivVazdusna Odbrana, Air Force and Air Defense Force) has entered a transition period and surely if funds become available has a prosperous future ahead.
The hospitality during our visits was great. We have forgotten the names of all the persons who have helped us with all our wishes; everything was possible and done very friendly. Specials thanks go to our companion LTC Zoran PUHAC who inspired us. Also special thanks go to LTC Marin KRSTIC at Batajnica. At the time we arrived in Batajnica he gave us the feeling that we are home.
Thanks to Colonel Zoran MARJANOVIC in Brussels with whom we had a very good contact in the beginning and who was very helpful to get permission. And finally we thank Lt Col. Jan Koet and Peter Schenau from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their contribution.
Authors of this article are Marinus Dirk Tabak, Joop J. de Groot and Volkert Jan van den Berg