Serbian Air Force
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The first aviation pioneer in Serbia was major Kosta Miletić (1874-1953) (Left
), trained as a balloon pilot at the Technical Aeronautical School near Saint Petersburg, Russia from 14 February 1901 to 12 November 1902. Miletić was also trained in the use of carrier pigeons.
On the recommendation of Miletić, the Serbian armed forces posted 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 August Ridinger company from Augsburg. At the reception ceremony, on 19 April 1909, Kosta Miletić flew a spherical balloon called Srbija (Serbia). One balloon was provided from Russia. A gas chamber was ordered from the Dillmann company in Berlin, and a field winch from St Petersburg. A hydrogen unit was provided from the Swiss company Oerlikon. The equipment was delivered to Serbia in 1909 and 1910.
The first competition for cadet airmen in Serbia was opened in May 1911, and in the following year the First class of Serbian pilots started their flying training in France from 21 May – 8 September 1912 and got the rank of pilot. They finished the course in the beginning of the First Balkan War with aircraft and the balloons that had already been obtained prior to the outbreak of war. In the autumn of 1912, Serbia got aircraft for its armed forces. On 24 December 1912 the head of the military Ministry Radomir Putnik approved the formation of the Aviation Command situated in Niš; the commander was Major Kosta Miletić. It comprised: the Aircraft Squadron which counted 12 military aircraft, the Balloon squad, the Pigeon post and the Base. This date is regarded in Serbia as marking the official founding of the air force. This made Serbia, one of the first 15 states in the world to have an air force.
World War I
(Left Lt. Miodrag Tomić and observer Milutin Mihailović seated in their Blériot XI-2 Génie airplane, at the Serbian Front, in May 1915. Right: Two men seated in a World War I-era biplane, surrounded by technical personnel.)
General mobilization in the summer of 1914 found Serbian Aeroplane Escadre not well prepared. Aeroplane Escadre have only 9 aeroplanes of which 7 in flying condition. Five planes and three pilots were relocated to airfield Dabića. From that airfield, Captain’s Živojin Stanković and 2nd Lieutenant Miodrag Tomić on August 13, 1914 commenced their first reconnaissance flights in Great War. Tomić took off from airfield Jevremovac on August 27, at five o’clock in the afternoon. Above Mishar he encountered an enemy plane and they were quite close to each other. Enemy plane opened fire on Tomić, who did not expect this, but he avoided it with an appropriate and fast maneuver, so the plane did not sustain any hits. Fire was coming from a Parabellum revolver. It was – probably – the first exchange of fire between aircraft in history. Because of air supremacy of the K.u.K. Luftfahrtruppen over Serbian Front, in March 1915 arrived the French Escadrille (Escadrille MFS.99) to aid weakness Serbian Aeroplane Escadre. French Escadrille held the frontline from Smederevo to Loznica, and Serbian Escadre from Smederevo to Golubac. After the conquest of Serbia by the Central Powers in the autumn of 1915 and the great retreat of Serbian army to island of Corfu, in the spring 1916 was formed Salonica Front.
In the autumn of 1915, in Serbia was realize the first medical transport of the wounded and sick in the world aviation history. One of the ill soldiers in that first medical transport was Milan Stefanik, a Czech pilot-volunteer. In June 1916 the reconstituted Serbian army sailed from Corfu and joined the French and British at Salonika. At the Salonica Front line, with the support of the Allied force, Serbian Aeroplane Escadre were reorganized. From mid 1916 to 1918 at Serbian part of new established frontline was operated 5 Escadrilles (N521, N522, N523, N524 and N525) and squadrons were staffed with French and Serbian personnel. This air force units officially known as the Aéronautique de l’Armée Serbe or Serbian Army Air Service and were attached to High Command of Serbian Army. It was commanded by a French officer Major Roger Vitrat. In beginning of 1918 the new reorganisation was started when were formed 1th Serbian Escadrille on January 17, and 2nd Serbian Escadrille on May 1, 1918, staffed of Serbian personnel.
World War 2
Western Desert, North Africa. 19 February 1942. Armament personnel bombing-up one of the seaplanes of a Royal Yugoslav Air Force unit operating in the Middle East. Commanding Officer of the Yugoslav Seaplane Squadron was Vladeta Petrovich.
The attacking forces, engaged in the April War (6th to 17 April) were 2373 aircraft strong, including from Germany 1212 aircraft, Italy 647 and Hungary 287 aircraft, while the Royal Yugoslav Air Force had 494 airplanes, only 269 of modern type. Thus the ratio, in the beginning of operations was 5:1 in favor of the enemy, and if we count only modern Yugoslav aircraft the ratio climbs to 7:1 in favor of the Axis powers. In spite of huge logistic difficulties and acts of treason (proclamation of so-called 'Independent State of Croatia' on April 10, 1941) the Royal Yugoslav Air Force has fulfilled its duties with honor. Yugoslav airmen fought with incomparable courage against an enemy superior both technically and numerically. Especially, the 5th and 6th Fighter regiment pilots showed their bravery. During the war operations (6 to 15 April) a total of 1416 take-offs was made, 993 of which were performed by fighters and 423 by bombers. During this short war 135 flight crew members and 576 ground personnel lost bravely their lives. About 300 Yugoslav Air Force personnel were escaped, first in Greece then in Crete. After Battle of Crete they come in the deserts of Near and Middle East were for short time found safe place. Meanwhile, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel with his Afrika Korps was already arrived there. In June 1941, was already formed the 2nd Yugoslav Squadron attached to No. 230 Squadron RAF.