Yugoslavia Table of Contents
In 1990 the air force included more than 32,000 personnel; because of the professional and technical requirements of the service, fewer than 4,000 were conscripts. The air force operated over 400 combat aircraft and 200 armed helicopters. It was responsible for transport, reconnaissance, and rotary wing aircraft as well as the national air defense system. The primary air force missions were to contest enemy efforts to establish air superiority over Yugoslavia and to support the defensive operations of the ground forces and navy. Most aircraft and missiles were produced domestically or supplied by the Soviet Union.
The air force had twelve squadrons of domestically produced ground attack fighters. The ground attack squadrons provided close air support to ground force operations. They were equipped with 165 new Orao-2, Super Galeb and Jastreb, and older P-2 Kraguj fighters. In 1990 gradual procurement of more Orao-2 fighters was facilitating replacement by the older fighters in ground attack squadrons. Many ground attack fighters were armed with AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles purchased from the United States. Others were armed with Soviet AS-7 and AS-9 missiles. The air force also had seventy armed Mi-8 helicopter gunships to provide added mobility and fire support for small ground units. A large number of reconnaissance aircraft were available to support ground forces operations. Four squadrons of seventy Galeb, Jastreb, and Orao-1 fighters were configured for reconnaissance missions.
The air force provided limited transport for the ground forces. It had two squadrons with over thirty Soviet-made Yak-40, An-12, and An-26 transport aircraft. It had seven helicopter transport squadrons with Soviet Mi-8 and domestic Partisan helicopters. In 1990 the air force transport aircraft and helicopters could transport only part of the men and equipment of the army's airborne brigade.
The air force had a limited role in supporting the navy in coastal defense operations. It operated one squadron of Sovietmade Ka-25 and Ka-28 antisubmarine warfare helicopters and two squadrons of Mi-8 and Partisan transport helicopters in support of navy missions.
The air force conducted a large pilot training program with almost 200 Galeb, Jastreb, and UTVA-75/-76 aircraft. The propeller-driven UTVA trainers had underwing pylons capable of carrying light weapons loads. A new UTVA Lasta trainer was under development in 1990. After practicing instrument and night flying, gunnery, bombing, rocket firing, and aerial maneuvers in the Lasta, student pilots progressed to the Super Galeb. Twenty Partisan helicopters were used for pilot training.
The air force had nine squadrons of 130 Soviet-made MiG-21 interceptors for air defense. First produced in the late 1950s, the MiG-21 was largely obsolete in 1990 and represented a potential weakness in Yugoslavia's air defense. The MiG-21's were armed with Soviet AA-2 air-to-air missiles of a similar vintage and some more modern AA-8 missiles as well as twin 30-mm cannons. The air force acquired one squadron of new Soviet MiG-29 interceptors in 1989, possibly as an initial step toward modernizing its interceptor squadrons. One Yugoslav aircraft manufacturer also was developing a new domestic multirole fighter to replace the MiG-21.
The 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.
Data as of December 1990