The aviation in our country was institutionalized at the beginning of 20th century, at the time of the overall prosperity of both the country and its armed forces. At the time, aviation did not have present structure or physiognomy, but it contained the elements of current arms and services of the Air Force and Air Defense, as well as the aviation in general.
In the contemporary view, the aviation was established with the first balloon flight of the Montgolfier brothers, on June 5, 1783, and since then, it has been the means of meeting different human requirements. The first aircraft were flying machines lighter than the air: balloons (hot air or hydrogen); engine-driven airships - dirigibles (A. @ifar, 1852), and rigid airships of metal structure - “zeppelins” having dominated as far as the very beginning of World War I. On December 17, 1903, in the USA, the Wright brothers made the first successful flight in the world’s first motor-powered, heavier-than-the-air craft, called “aero plane” or “airplane”. The era of aviation started with this event, so planes, gradually at first, and then, in World War I, completely, overpowered balloons and dirigibles. Different self-powered heavier-than-the-air craft flying machines were invented: autogyro, helicopter, motor kite and others. In the beginning, the aircraft were made of canvas and wood, then of metal, and today of composite materials. The equipment of the first planes was modest, and today it is among the highest achievements in engineering and technology in general. The aircraft drive unit was developed and today it is based on powerful engines, ensuring high level of safety, great speeds and load-bearing capacity.
Since the appearance of a balloon in the late 18th century, aviation has attracted attention of a number of inventive Serbs, and some of them have achieved significant results (K. Mazarovic, O. Kostovic, N. Tesla). The expressions “vazduhoplovni nastroj” (“air machine”) and “vazduhoplovje” (“aircraft”) appeared in Serbia in 1844 (“Novine serbske” (“Serbian newspaper”)). The first balloon was flown over Belgrade in 1873 and over Pancevo in 1880 (by a Frenchman balloonist N. Bede).
Soon, a balloon started to be used in the military. In 1794, the French had two balloon companies which they used in the wars of 1795/96 and 1870/71. Germany established military ballooning in 1870, Great Britain in 1878, Italy in 1884, Russia in 1885, Austro-Hungary in 1886, and USA in 1892. In 1893, in Serbia, introducing balloons into the military was planned, development of the world aviation followed and a few articles published.
The first aviation expert in Serbia was Lieutenant Kosta Miletic, selected owing to his physical and mental abilities. He got the rank of pilot of tied and free balloons at the Technical Aeronautical School near Petrograd (February 14, 1901 – November 12, 1902), and he was also trained for handling messenger pigeons. According to his projects, Serbian armed forces posed messenger pigeon stations (in 1908 in Medosevac near Nis and in 1909 in Pirot), and bought two free spherical and one tied kite – balloon from the company "August Ri¬din¬ger" from Augsburg. At the reception ceremony, on April 19, 1909, Kosta Miletic flew a spherical balloon called “Serbia” under Serbian flag. One balloon was provided from Russia. A gas chamber was ordered from the company "Dil¬man" in Berlin, and field winch from St Petersburg. A hydorogen unit was provided from a Swiss company „Erliken“. The equipment was delivered to Serbia in 1909 and 1910. The conditions for the use of the balloon were created in 1913, when the hydrogen unit was activated. Serbian military balloons were used in the Second Balkan and the First World War.
Among the first in our country, the following airmen flew the machines heavier than the air: PhD Vladimir Aleksic from Pancevo (on October 17, 1909, he flew a two-wing glider launched by a rubber rope) and Ivan Saric from Subotica (on June 1910, he flew an aircraft he constructed himself). The following airmen came to Belgrade: a Czech Rudolf Simon, on September 1910; a Russian Boris Maslenikov in December 1910 and January 1911; a Czech Jan Cermak and Italian Gianni Vidmar in 1911. In 1912, a Slovenian Edward Rusijan, flying a plane constructed by Mihajlo Mercep, was killed on January 7, 1911 near Nebojsa Tower on Kalemegdan. The idea of aviation was especially supported by the Serbian youth.
The first competition for the cadet airmen in Serbia was opened on May 1911, and in the following year the First class of Serbian pilots started their training: lieutenants Milos Ilic and Jovan Jugovic, second lieutenant Zivojin Stankovic, sergeant Mihajlo Petrovic and subsergeants Miodrag Tomic and Vojislav Novicic successfully completed their flying training at a pilots’ school in the small town of Etamps near Paris from May 21 to September 8, 1912 and got the rank of pilot. In the autumn of 1912, Serbia got the aircraft for its armed forces.
The aviation command of the Serbian armed forces was set up on December 24, 1912; the commander was Major Kosta Miletic. It comprised: a plane squad (12 planes), a balloon squad (3 balloons), and a hydrogen unit and a messenger pigeon service. It was located in Nis, at the airport on Trupalsko field. Serbia is among the first 15 countries in the world which had aviation and among the first five which used aircraft in combat actions (the Balkan wars). Sergeant Mihajlo Petrovic, the first Serbian pilot, was killed on a combat task near Skadar, on March 20, 1913, thus being the first victim of the Serbian military aviation, the second in the world.
At the beginning of the First World War in 1914, the Serbian armed forces comprised: a plane squad with four planes and a balloon squad with two balloons. After the Albania’s Golgotha, the Serbian armed forces and its airmen arrived at Corfu. An Aviation Squadron with an Aviation depot and a workshop was formed and deployed at the Thessaloniki front. In May 1916, “Serbian aviation” was set up - the headquarters and five Serbian-French squadrons. In 1916, Serbian Aviation Squadron had 270 men (32 pilots, 16 reconnaissance operators and 40 mechanics). “Njeporsko squad” was formed on December 16, 1916, and the First Serbian Squadron on January 17, 1918, with Captain Branko Vukosavljevic as their commander. After forming the Second Serbian Squadron, on May 1, 1918, the Serbian Aviation Squadron with about 500 men and 40 planes was formed and took part in the breakthrough of the Thessaloniki front. By the end of 1918, the Serbian Aviation Squadron arrived at Novi Sad via Skoplje, Nis and Belgrade. Both at the Thessaloniki front and in the combat actions for liberating their country, Serbian aviation performed more than 3,000 sorties. In the Balkan wars and the First World War, Serbian aviation used four balloons, as well as 180 planes of 36 different types and models. 75 pilots, 50 reconnaissance operators, a large number of aviation mechanics and other specialists were trained. Serbian military aviation was the foundation stone of the aviation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
At the beginning of 1919, in Novi Sad, Aviation Command, the First Pilots‘ School and Aviation Arsenal were set up, and in 1920, the Aviation Department within the Ministry of the Army and Navy, as well as the First Aviation Regiment were also established. Rules and regulations were set for organization, training and education. Aviation became one of the armed services within the armed forces comprising three major components: operational, army and navy. From 1923 to 1930, the air force was organized into brigades, regiments, air force groups and squadrons for reconnaissance, bombing and fighter combat, as well as aeronautical technical parks and workshops. Meteorological service, airport network and air defense system was established. The law on securing flight crew, as well as aeronautical regulations for peacetime and wartime period were passed, and extra payments for flight service were introduced. Significant results were achieved at numerous international aeronautical competitions. In 1927, an army-level Air Force Command was established and air force military schools and academies were developed. Serbian airmen founded a national aero club and joined the international aeronautical associations. An air transport company was founded and the first commercial air lines opened.
Domestic aeronautical industry has been developed, as well as scientific and research institutions. The Aeronautical Department was set up at the Technical Faculty of the Belgrade University and a Test Group for testing planes on the ground and in the air was formed in 1933 at the Zemun airport. In 1923, Serbia opened a competition for setting up a company for making planes, with the guarantee of initial orders and profit. The condition was that the planes fitted technical standards, and that domestic capital was used. Plane factories were founded (6), thus creating a complex of aeronautical industry: “The first Serbian aeronautical factory Zivojina Rogozarskog” in Belgrade; plane factory “Ikarus” in Zemun; aeroplane and hydroplane factory ”Zmaj“ Zemun; State plane factory in Kraljevo; plane factory “Utva” in Pancevo, and plane factory “Albatros” in Sremskoj Mitrovici; factory of engines and aeronautical equipment “Vlajkovic & co.” and “Industry of aeroplane engines, JSC ” in Rakovica near Belgrade; factory “Teleoptik” from Zemun; factories “Nestor” and “Mikron”; factory “Knebl i Ditrih”; “Vistad” from Visegrad and others. In Yugoslav factories, from 1923 to the beginning of April war in 1941, 60 types of planes of different catagories and purpose were designed and constructed, and 16 were made in smaller or larger batches. 13 types of gliders, out of which some were manufactured in batches, were designed and constructed. 16 types of planes and 5 types of planes were made according to foreign licences. In that period, 1,570 planes, 80 gliders, 1,150 engines and 2,500 parachutes were made.
In April war of 1941, the air force (2000 airmen and a thousand planes, out of which about 400 combat aircraft) offered the aggressor strong and organized resistance. Combat aviation had 1,416 sorties (fighter aviation 993, bomber aviation 423). A few tens of enemy planes were shot down. 135 airmen were killed. A number of the airmen went to the Middle East, continuing their fight against fascist forces together with the Allies.
In May 1942, the Peoples’ Liberation Army of Yugoslavia got “partisan aviation”, the Supreme Command Aviation Squad. In 1943, the First Aviation Base was set up, gathering personnel and sending them for training abroad. By the end of 1944, at the liberated territory of Yugoslavia, there were more than 50 airports and 140 fields for the reception of the allied aviation. Out of the Yugoslav airmen in RAF at the Middle East and from the units of the Peoples’ Liberation Army of Yugoslavia, on April 22, 1944, 352nd (Yugoslav) squadron or the First Squadron of the Peoples’ Liberation Army of Yugoslavia was formed, and on July 1 of the same year, 351st (Yugoslav) squadron or the Second Squadron of the Peoples’ Liberation Army of Yugoslavia performed 591 combat task – 2,201 aviation sorties. On October 29, 1944, in liberated Belgrade, the Air Force Command of the Peoples’ Liberation Army of Yugoslavia was formed. In the late 1944, assault and fighter air force division with the related logistic structures were formed, as well as about 5,500 men and 250 planes of type Il-2 and Jak (three fighter and three assault aviation regiments, six airport service battalions and supporting aeronautical and technical units; they performed 1,445 combat sorties). In the spring of 1945, the Yugoslav Air Force comprised: the headquarters in Zemun; four air divisions; transport air regiment; four air force regional commands with 16 airport commands, logistic units, installations, air force military schools, Air Force Test Center. The reconstruction of aeronautical industry and infrastructure started.
The Yugoslav Air Force was established in 1947, and in 1949, it comprised: six air force divisions and a few aviation regiments. Meteorological and air traffic control services were developed. Production of domestic combat piston planes began. Piston and jet combat planes from USA and Great Britain were obtained. In 1955, the Yugoslav Air Force had two air force corps, six air force divisions, 19 combat and support combat aviation regiments, and four training regiments. Reorganization of the military education was carried out. On July 27, 1959, the Air Force commands and units were integrated with the territorial air defense into one armed service – Air Force and Air Defense.
In the middle 1960s, the Air Force and Air Defense comprised 20 air force regiments - 67 squadrons. In operational and training aviation units, there were about 700 planes and about 1,000 pilots. In the early 70s, there were about 600 planes, 320 jet planes, and 1,018 pilots. In the late 70s, there were 39 squadrons, 770 planes and 1,048 pilots. From 1975 to 1985, the number of men reduced, technical modernization related to organization and formation was carried out and developed. By reorganization of the military education in 1985, the air force schools and institutions were grouped according to their functions.
Aeronautical Technical Institute designed and aeronautical industry started manufacturing domestic jet planes. Prototype plane “Galeb-2” first flew in 1961, assault plane “Jastreb” in 1965, two-engine reconnaissance plane and fighter-bomber “Orao” in 1974, “Galeb-4” in 1978. In the factory “Utva”, a batch of planes for basic training “Utva-75” was manufactured. The culmination of the process of technological and technical modernization of the Air Force and Air Defense was the project of a domestic multi-purpose supersonic aircraft (YU - supersonic), which included implementation of the most sophisticated scientific and technical achievements and technologies. By this, the conditions for increasing technical and technological level of the country would be created, as well as employing production capacities and higher level of independence in providing equipment. It should have been the most complex final product of domestic science and industry and “a flying-wheel” of technical and technological development; with over 180 new technologies and materials, it would provide a generation boom in electronics, informatics, bioengineering and medical and biological sciences. However, economic and social crisis, as well as dismemberment of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, “pushed” that program “aside”.
The beginning of the Yugoslav crisis and its culmination in 1991/92 caused significant changes in the organization and formation of the Air Force. Secession of the Yugoslav republics, has changed the geostrategic situation and environment, there was a period of great trials and problems, with many fold reductions in allocation for the development of aviation which came to a standstill while scientific and theoretical work, came to a standstill, personnel was leaving the units and the aviation industry capacities were neglected. The process of modernization was stopped followed by a long period of crisis. However, in difficult conditions the Air Force managed to maintain its integrity and operational capability. All commands, units, facilities, and aircraft equipment were revoked from secessionist republic. In the resulting civil war, the Air Force units were deployed to protect the endangered civilians, defense facilities and in protecting blocked units under siege which are threatened by secessionist paramilitary forces.
After the promulgation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1992 the reorganization of the Air Force ensued by abolishing Air Corps of the former JNA and by establishing a single Air Corps, now the of Yugoslav Armed Forces. Since 1992. all military aviation schools, the aviation academy and institutes were gradually abolished and were integrated into military schools and institutions (VTI, WMA) thus they ceased to exist as independent aviation institutions. Despite profound crisis, some programs of the aviation industry were kept alive until 1994, modifications were made to Supergaleb G-4M, the factory "Utva" began production of ultra light aircraft, and continued the development of piston-driven aircraft "Lasta". Our airmen participate d at the international aerospace exhibition in Aviano (Italy) in 1996 where they impressed the general public with their professional skills in their flight. In subsequent years, the international air shows held in Batajnica airport showed the vitality of the Yugoslav Air Force. In October 1997 the acro-group "Flying Stars" participated in Bulgaria and then in the Czech Republic.
However, after years of continuous heating and escalating of the crisis in Kosovo and Metohija and months of threats by the Western powers, on 24 March 1999 the NATO air force attacked Yugoslavia in synchronized strikes with cruise missiles aggression. The balance of power was extremely unfavorable to Yugoslavia because 10 NATO countries with enormous military potential launched the campaign Besides them, all other NATO members as well as neighboring states were involved in aggression. The aggression against Yugoslavia was faced by a squadron of modern MiG-29 fighter air crafts and all other aviation technical equipment was 10, 20 or even as much as 30 years older than the aggressor’s equipment. At the beginning of the aggression some 400 aircrafts were deployed, while this number rose to up to 1,200 aircrafts and helicopters by the end of the war. According to various sources, NATO had some 26,000 aircraft take-offs. In the first days of the aggression, the facilities at the Air Force were the main target which suffered 500 air strikes at about 300 locations. During all 78 days of aggression, the members of the Air Force, as well as the first echelon of defense, fought honorably against technological, economic and military far superior enemy. Their heroism from the beginning to the last moment of aggression were a strong factor in the defense of the country. In total, 41 air force members died, including three pilots in fighter aircraft: Major Zoran Radosavljevic, Lieutenant Colonel Djuric and Colonel Milenko Pavlovic. With their heroism, they joined the eternal squadron of airmen flying and guarding our skies led by Mihailo Petrovic, as the first Serbian airman from 1913. In the decade that followed the NATO aggression has not made a prompt improvement of Yugoslav airmen who were still faced with extreme economic difficulties and the inability to purchase new aircraft and aviation-technical equipment. An additional problem occurred in May 2006 when after the dissolution of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro and relocation of aviation technology from Montenegro to Serbia. This resulted in the Air Force, now of the independent state of Serbia, to once again get a prefix "Serbian", after more than half a century.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the Serbian Air Force has the resources, human potential, experience and knowledge ready to make new steps forward. They depend on financial resources and willingness to invest in the air force. It is necessary to recall that we are one of the 15 countries to have had Air Force during world wars and to have deployed it in war. Former Yugoslavia had its own military aviation and flight schools and academies where more than 10,000 pilots have been trained. In its rich, a century long aviation tradition, among other things, more than 100 different types of aircraft were developed experimentally and operatively, 30 of which were in operational use, and more than 4,700 different aircrafts were produced, as well as large amount of various equipment and weapons.
Today, the Air Force Army of Serbia, with its the rich tradition and in new conditions, firmly founded more than 100 years ago, thanks to the knowledge, tenacity and determination of its members, makes efforts to carry out its sacred mission - preservation and defense of the Serbian skies. At the same time sports aviation is developing and achieving excellent results, while commercial aviation in Serbia is gaining momentum as well.