Serbian MiG-21

The Serbian MiG-21 – the Yugoslav Air Force (Later Serbian AF) and Air Defence Force (YuAF, or JRV i PVO – Jugoslovensko Ratno Vazduhoplovstvo i Protiv-vazdusna Odbrana) was formed on 5th January 1945 as part of the army. These two constituent parts of the YuAF were united under a single and independent entity in July 1959. In 1986, the YuAF was organised into three Regional Corps, each containing all branches of the military; the aviation element comprised one fighter regi­ment and an Aviation Brigade, which contained amongst other units two fighter-bomber and one reconnaissance squadron. This conformation continued until 25th June 1991, when first Slovenia and, shortly afterwards, Croatia declared their independence. Next, Bosnia- Herzegovina and Macedonia followed suit, and a civil war ensued that was not settled until the signing of the Dayton Peace Accord in 1995. A new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had been created on 11th April 1992 comprising the Republics of Serbia and Montenegro, and an autonomous Ratno Vazduhoplovstvo i Protiv- vazdusna Odbrana (RV i PVO) was formed in May/June 1992 with two specialist Corps; Korpus protiwazdusne odbrane (Air Defence Corps, Ko PVO) with no aircraft and the Vazduhoplovni Korpus (Aviation Corps, VaK). In 1994 the VaK transferred two fighter regiments of MiG-21 s and MiG-29s to Ko PVO and also lost Izvidjacka Avijacijska Eskadrila (Recon­naissance Air Squadron, IAE) Oluj (Storm) with its MiG-21 R and MiG-21bis aircraft to HQ RV i PVO. Another reorganisation in 1997 occasioned the disbanding of 230 LBAE (Lovacko-bombarderska avijacijska eskadrila, Fighter-Bomber Squadron) with its MiG-21 Ms put into storage and also 352 IAE whose MiG-21 Rs, MiG-21 Ms and MiG-21 Jbis (recon­naissance variants) and MiG-21 UMs moved to IAE ‘Sokolovi’ (Falcons). On 27th February 2002 the General Staff took full control of all aviation, army and naval assets and abolished command HQs, such as that of the RV and PVO.

Finally, in June 2006 Montenegro, too, declared its independence and the Federal State of Yugoslavia ceased to exist; in its place two separate Republics of Serbia and Montenegro were born. From 28th February 2005 onwards the Serbian Air Force became known as Vazduhoplovne Snage i Protiv Vazduhoplovna Odbrana Srbije (ViPVO), Air and Defence Force of Serbia. It comprised 13 squadrons of the combined air forces under the Joint General Staff.

Throughout their existence the Yugoslav and Serbian Air Forces have been organised on a regimental basis. Under the current Serbian Air Force order of battle, the air regiments have been reorganised as Air Bases (Aviacijska Baza). The MiG-21 bis fighters and MiG-21UM trainers of the 126 IAE have now been transferred to the 101 IAE, also based at Batajnica. No more than 20 MiG-2lb/’s are in service in 2007 with 101 IAE, of which about five are airworthy, together with six or seven MiG-21 UM trainers, of which two or three are supposedly operational.

The YuAF used five-digit serial numbers which were painted on the tailfin, the first two being a code for the aircraft type. In SFRJ days the individual last three digits were repeated on the nose; they were often removed in the civil wars and the conflict with NATO.

September 1962 saw the arrival of the first of 40 (or possibly 45) MiG-21 F-13 (izdeliye 74) fighters which were given the local designation L-12 with the purpose of guarding the secret of their arrival for as long as possible. They were serialled 22501-22540 and all were sent to 204 IAP at Batajnica where they stayed until the arrival of the 36 MiG-21 PFMs when the new type supplanted the older, which were transferred to 117 IAP. The arrival of more modern variants meant additional transfers of the MiG-21 F-13, this time to 128 IAP from which survivors were finally retired in 1980.

Having decided not to order the MiG-21 PF, the YuAF first took delivery of the MiG-21 PFM (izdeliye 94) in 1968. Given the local designation L-14, all 36 were allocated to the 204 IAP at Batajnica. Originally, like the MiG- 21 F-13s, they wore an overall silver finish; later this gave way to an overall light grey air superiority scheme. The same was true for the later MiG-21 variants and took place when Yugoslavia was still extant.

The survivors were gathered in the 129 IAE of the 185 LBAP and withdrawn from service in 1994. The MiG-21 R (izdeliye 94RA) was the specialised reconnaissance variant with a local YuAF designation L-141; 12 were delivered in 1968 (or 1969?) to 353 IAE at Batajnica. Survivors were withdrawn from service in December 2003, having been supplanted by MiG-21 M and MiG-21 bis fighters locally modified to carry a reconnaissance pod.

The next fighter type to arrive in Yugoslavia was the MiG-21 M (izdeliye 96), essentially an interceptor version of the MiG-21 R. Designated L-15 by the YuAF, 25 were delivered to 117 IAP and 204 IAP commencing in 1970. At least one was subsequently modified to carry a recon­naissance pod, redesignated L-151 and served with 353 IAE.

The surviving fighters were withdrawn from service in 1996 from 130 IAE of the 83 IAP. The MiG-21 MF (izdeliye 96F) was a version of the MiG-21 M with more powerful radar and engine; six were delivered in 1975 and given the local designation L-15M.

The final fighter variant of the MiG-21 was the MiG-21 bis, locally designated L-17 (izdeliye 75A) and L-17K (izdeliye 75B), of which between 91 to 95 were delivered from 1977. The MiG-21 bis (izdeliye 75B) was also unofficially known as MiG-21bis-K. At least one was converted to carry a reconnaissance pod.

Since the MiG-29s were put into storage through lack of spares the MiG-21 bis is in 2007 the primary fighter of the Serbian Air Force and equips 101 IAE at Batajnica.

In 1965 three MiG-21 U (izdeliye 66-400) were delivered to the Yugoslav Air Force and designated NL-12 (NL for Nastavni Lovacko, Trainer Fighter). This variant had a ventrally located parabrake and a narrow-chord vertical tail. They were taken out of service in 1991. The next batch of trainers to arrive, 15 in all, were MiG-21 U (izd. 66-600), known locally as NL-12M, with the larger tailfin and the parabrake under the rudder. Survivors were withdrawn from service in 1991. The MiG-21 US (izdeliye 68A) was the first version of the trainer to have blown flaps, seven were delivered from 1968 with local designation NL-14. Survivors were retired in 1991.

The final trainer variant, the MiG-21 UM (izdeliye 69), YuAF designation NL-16, first delivered in 1977, is still in service. In total 24 (some sources suggest 25) were purchased. To satisfy the requirements of the various Arms Control Agreements which limited the YuAF to 155 combat aircraft, eight MiG-21 UMs were stripped of all armament to qualify as non- combatants.

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