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Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) Air Force

The Yugoslav army lost over a third of it's air force over Croatia in combat during the early 1990s. NATO's enforcement of the no-fly zone in Bosnia-Herzegovina, as authorized by the UN Security Council, has included air operations since April 12, 1993. NATO undertook to monitor the no-fly zone to ensure that the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina did not spread to the air. During enforcement operations in the early morning hours of 28 February 1994, US F-16 aircraft on air patrol for NATO shot down four Galeb fixed-wing aircraft that were violating the no-fly zone near Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The air force acquired one squadron of new Soviet MiG-29 interceptors in 1989, as an initial step toward modernizing its interceptor squadrons. By 1995 a total of 10-15 MiG-29A and 2 MiG-29U/B aircraft were reportedly on hand, uncertainty over the exact number in part reflecting uncertainty concerning losses during the war with Croatia, which reportedly included at least four MiG-29s. Although some reports claim that Serbia owns more than 40 MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters, it is generally estimated that the air force only has about a dozen at most.

Other major combat aircraft types include:

  • MiG-21 FISHBED -- a 1960s designed air defence fighter. Old, but still capable. The Air Force has between 60 and 90 of these aircraft, with best estimates typically suggesting an inventory of about 70 of these aircraft.
  • J-22 Orao -- an indigenously designed fighter, ground attack aircraft that in rather slow and relatively unmanoeuvrable.
  • G-4 Super Galeb - a fighter-bomber, similar to the British Aerospace Hawk, that serves as an advanced trainer.

By the late 1990s, the Serbian Air Force and the Anti-Aircraft Force were comprised an estimated 16,000 servicemen. Their overall combat readiness was generally estimated as low due to lack of financing, fuel, and spare parts. Many of the officers trained in Soviet military institutions were dismissed from Serbian military service. The number of experienced pilots and qualified maintenance specialists was not large. Belgrade had failed to complete a military restructuring program and to upgrade armaments due to lack of financing, and the local military industrial complex was incapable of fully meeting the needs of the aviation and anti-aircraft forces.

Current Combat Aircraft Inventory
Excludes non-combat, training and support aircraft
Type Quantity Role
MiG-29A/B Fulcrum 10-15 + 2 Interception/Attack + trainer
MiG-21bis/UM Fishbed 60-90 Interception / Reconaissance
G-4 Super Galeb 45-60 Fighter-Bomber
G-2 Galeb 20 ? Training
J/NJ-22 Orao 25-40 Fighter-Bomber + trainer
J/NJ-22 Orao 20 ? Reconnaissance


Air Bases / Order of Battle

Considerable variation exists among sources, and it is evident that some units have relocated and possibly re-designated over the past several years. This compilation represents a "best estimate" composite.
Air Base Location Unit Aircraft Number
Batajnica Belgrade 126th Fighter Squadron MiG-21 BIS 22
MiG-21 UM 4
127th Fighter Squadron MiG-29 ~ 11
MiG-29 UB 2
252d Fighter-Bomber Squadron J-22 Orao 12
353rd Recconaissance Squadron [det] MiG-21R 4
890th Mixed Helicopter Squadron Mi-8
Berane Auxiliary Airfield
Golubovci Podgorica 229th Fighter-Bomber Squadron G-4 Super-Galeb ? 18
239th Fighter-Bomber Squadron G-4 Super-Galeb ? 18
242nd Fighter-Bomber Squadron G-4 Super-Galeb ? 18
Flying Stars [display team] G-4 Super-Galeb 7
251st Fighter-Bomber Squadron G-2 Galeb ? 20
97th Helicopter Regiment SA-341H Gazelle 30
Mil-14 PL 4
KA-25 2
KA-27 Helix 3
Kovin Belgrade Auxiliary Airfield UTVA-75
Ladjevci Kraljevo 241st Fighter-Bomber Squadron J-22 Orao 24
353rd Recconaissance Squadron [det] IJ-22 Orao ? 12
Nis Nis 119th Helicopter Regiment SA-341H Gazelle 30
Pancevo Pancevo Auxiliary Airfield
Ponikve Auxiliary Airfield
Slatina Pristina 123d Fighter Squadron MiG-21 BIS 7
MiG-21 UM 2
124th Fighter Squadron MiG-21 M/MF 17
MiG-21 UM 4
Surcin Belgrade 676th Firefighting Squadron CanadAir CL-215 3
Federal Air Traffic Control Yak-40 some
Zlatibor Auxiliary Airfield


Air Defense Forces

The Yugoslav air force controlled additional capable ground-based air defense forces, which were upgraded in the mid-1970s. They included eight battalions of Soviet SA-2 surface-to-air missiles; six battalions of more modern SA-3 missiles; fifteen regiments of antiaircraft artillery; and a network of early warning radars and command, control, and communications equipment dispersed at sites around the country. The best-defended sites were those with strategic military value, including government army headquarters, industrial infrastructure, major population centers, ports, and airfields. The SA-2 is a semi-transportable system deployed at fixed sites, while the SA-3 [and more recently deployed] SA-6 and SA-11 are mobile systems. The SA-2 and SA-3 are old, but have a high ceiling. The SA-6 is a very effective medium level missile. It has already been used in anger in Bosnia and was the weapon responsible for shooting down USAF Capt Scott O'Grady's F-16 in 1995. As of early October 1998, three of the Yugoslav SA-6 missile batteries were deployed in Kosovo, at Pristina and Djakovica and at a new site east of Glogovac.

In addition, the large strategic SA-5 GAMMON long-range surface to air missile was reportedly deployed around Belgrade, though this deployment was not mentioned in many descriptions of Serbian air defenses, and the status of this system was uncertain.

In addition to these large anti-aircraft missiles, the Yugoslav Air Force air defense units were also said to employ the tactical SA-9 and 13, which employ the same missile -- the first is mounted on a wheeled chassis, the second on a tracked chassis. Other reports also suggested the presence of the tactical SA-14 and SA-15 systems, although the inventory and operational capabilities of these forces at that time were highly uncertain based on unclassified sources. A variety of single-shot shoulder-launched man-portable short-range systems, such as the SA-7, SA-16 and SA-18 were also reported in the Serbian inventory. These missiles are similar to the US Stinger and the UK Blowpipe/Javelin, and the SA-16 and SA-18 are the latest and most capable.

Reports of the deployment of the modern SA-10 air defense missile remain unconfirmed. Considerable variation exists between the reported destination countries of exported Soviet air defense missiles, and the reported inventory of such missiles in Serbia [which is seldom mentioned as a destination for missiles that other reports claim it employs]. In early October 1998, it was reported that Russia had supplied Serbia with additional air defense equipment, in violation of the arms embargo. According to these reports, the Serbs acquired new warheads, fuses and radars for their mobile SA-6 missiles, giving them an extended engagement range.

Serbian Air Defense Missiles

MissileRange - km Launcher
Inventory
SA-5 GAMMON 250 km some
SA-2 GUIDELINE Dvina 45 km 40
SA-11 GADFLY 9K37M1 BUK-1M 28 km ? some
SA-6 GAINFUL Kub 20 km 70
SA-3 GOA ZRK S-125 Neva 20 km 60
SA-15 GAUNTLET 9K331 Tor 12 km some
SA-13 GOPHER ZRK-BD Strela-10 5 km numerous
SA-9 GASKIN 9K31 Strela-1 4 km numerous
SA-14 GREMLIN 9K34 Strela-3 4 km numerous

The Dayton agreement stipulated limited the number of heavy weapons of the Yugoslav armed forces. As of early 1998, the Air Force had 155 planes and 55 fire-support helicopters as well as another 165 transport, rescue, and other helicopters. In general, the Air Force is largely equipped with obsolete weapons and equipment, since the international community has succeeded in halting the receipt of spare parts for airplanes, modern radars, and other weapons.

The Pristina Corps was supported in Kosovo by the 83rd Air Force Brigade, stationed at its base in Goles near Pristina. One of the two existing interceptor aircraft units, it consists of two MiG 21 squadrons. Air Force operations have been limited to deterrent low overflights by airplanes and helicopters.




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