Hispano Aviación HA-1112 – Iberian Eagle

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An HA-1112-M1L seen at Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2015.

From Civil War to Civil Registers

Based on the G-2 variant of Messerschmitt’s legendary Bf-109 fighter, Hispano Aviación’s HA-1112 is considered by many to be the ultimate development of the Bf-109 family when post-war variants are taken into account.

While the G-2 variant  would form the core of all Spanish post-war Bf-109 development, the nation’s relationship with the Messerschmitt fighter family reaches back to the Spanish Civil War which raged from 1936 to 1939.

The Condor Legion, a group of volunteers from the German military who assissted the Nationalist side of the conflict, used the Spanish Civil War as a proving ground for much of the technology and tactics they would use in the early stages of the Second World War. This included early versions of the Bf-109 aircraft family.

1939 brought the Spanish Civil War to an end with a Nationalist victory and a considerable amount of German military hardware left behind to equip the Spanish military. Though Spain was officially a non-combatant in the Second World War, close ties were kept to Germany during the period and a deal was struck in 1942 for 200 Bf-109G-2 aircraft to be built under license in Spain for the Germans. However, the deal proved unviable when Germany was unable to meet its end of the deal by providing the promised components for the Spanish to build the aircraft with.

In the end, 25 dismantled Bf-109 airframes were sent to Spain in 1943 to be used for pattern making. Ultimately, Germany could not even provide technical drawings or construction jigs and the Spanish took it upon themselves to develop their unique variations on the aircraft in 1944.

What began in 1944 as Spain’s attempt to salvage a serviceable aircraft for themselves from a failed arrangement with Germany, reached an apex in 1954 with the first flight of the HA-1112. The aircraft would serve the Spanish air force until the mid 1960s and become a popular substitute in films and airshows for its Bf-109 progenitor.

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Ha-1112-M1L at Pardubice in 2015

Refining the Formula

Based in Seville, Hispano Aviación took responsibility for development of the aircraft.

Using the 25 airframes Germany had provided in 1943 as testing aircraft and prototypes; the company settled on the Hispano-Suiza 12Z engine for the aircraft and propellers from the Swiss firm, Escher Wyss. The 25 aircraft were designated HA-1109-J1L and were never used operationally by the military. The first of these aircraft flew in 1945.

The next step took place in 1951 with the debut of the HA-1109-K1L. The new variant incorporated an improved version of the Hispano-Suiza 12Z and a de Havilland designed three blade propeller. It was armed with a pair of 20mm cannons and could carry unguided rockets on underwing racks. A total of 65 of this variant were built, including 25 HA-1109-J1L aircraft which were converted to K1L standard. This variant was later redesignated HA-1112-K1L. These aircraft were used strictly as operational trainers by the Spanish air force.

Improving relations between Spain and Great Britain in the early 1950s resulted in Spain being able to Acquire a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine and four blade Rotol propeller to create the HA-1109-M1L which served as the prototype for the ultimate HA-1112-M1L version.

The HA-1112-M1L was more than just a new engine and propeller on the existing airframe. A large number of refinements had been made, including a large wing fence on the top of each wing to smooth airflow. While the standard armament remained unchanged, the performance was much improved over earlier variants.

The HA-1112-M1L is the variant specifically tied to the aircraft’s popular nickname of buchón, a Spanish term for a pigeon. The nickname comes from the variant’s notably large chin area, which is reminiscent of an inflatable chest pouch that the males of some varieties of domestic pigeons possess

A total of two aircraft were built as two seat trainers. The first was powered by the Hispano-Suiza 12Z and designated HA-1110-K1L. The second two seater was built with a Merlin engine and designated HA-1112-M4L. The HA-1110-K1L was eventually converted to an HA-1112-M4L.

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The buchón over pardubice in 2015.

The Buchón in Battle

The latter part of the 20th Century saw a general trend to decolonization across Africa and Spanish holdings on that continent were directly affected.

Shortly after Morroco gained independence in 1956, it laid claims to the territory of Spanish Sahara. Matters came to a head in the form of the Ifni War, which lasted for eight months spanning October of 1957 to June of 1958.

At the time of the battle, the Spanish military was in a period of modernization that saw them take a large amount of American equipment into service.  America, however, refused to permit Spain to use that equipment in the Ifni War. As such, Spain had to fall back on its remaining German derived machinery to fight the battle.

A number of buchóns along with post war Spanish built versions of the Junkers Ju-52 tansport and Heinkel He-111 bomber were deployed to Spanish Sahara to battle Morrocan insurgents and their allies.

The buchóns were primarily tasked with giving close air support to army units on the ground.

Through the Ifni War, the HA-1112 earned the distinction of being the last member of the Bf-109 family to participate in actual battle.

Of course, most people are more familiar with the aircraft fighting battles on the cinema screen or at airshows. Indeed, in such roles, the buchón has carved out a degree of celebrity and recognition for itself that rivals that of its Messerschmitt forbears which it has so often been called upon to represent.

If you’ve seen any of the following films, you’ve seen a Buchón in action:

“Der Stern von Afrika” (The Star of Africa) A German film from 1957 focusing on the Luftwaffe ace, Hans-Joachim Marseille.

“Battle of Britain” The legendary British film from 1969 features several buchóns filling the Bf-109 role.

“Memphis Belle” The 1990 American film about the Boeing B-17 bomber of the same name.

“The Tuskegee Airmen” A 1995 American film about the famous fighter group of all black pilots in WWII.

“Tmavomodrý svět” (Dark Blue World) A Czech film from 2001 about Czechoslovak pilots in the RAF in WWII. This film is particularly notable as many of the flying scenes were taken from the 1969 “Battle of Britain” and retouched digitally.

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The buchón performing at Pardubice in 2015.

The Buchón Today

Actively flying buchóns would appear to be a rarity as of 2015. However, a bit of looking around showed that there are several of the type in storage or on static display in museums that are still listed on civil registers. If that means they could take to the air again someday, only time will tell.

Happily, the near future may see more buchóns in the air. For many years, six buchóns used in the 1969 “Battle of Britain” film sat in storage in Texas as part of the extensive aircraft collection of Wilson “Connie” Edwards. Edwards had been one of the principal pilots in the film and took the six aircraft as payment when the film production company couldn’t pay him the money promised. One of these aircraft was a two seat variant.

In 2014, Edwards put the six aircraft up for sale and they were swiftly purchased by Boschung Global, a Swiss based warbird specialist. All six aircraft have the potential to be restored to airworthy status. The Swiss owner appears intent on keeping a pair, including the two seater, for themselves in Europe and selling the other aircraft on after restoring them.

If one wished to see a buchón in a configuration authentic to how the type looked when in active service with the Spanish air force, it would seem a museum is the only place you will see such a thing as most examples of the type that made it to civil registers appear to have been altered to bear more resemblance to their ancestral Bf-109s.

A number of buchóns have also been fitted with Daimler-Benz engines which powered the Bf-109 variants during WWII. Consequently, these buchóns are particularly difficult to differentiate from their forbears.

These links will take you to short articles about active buchóns on the British register:

http://www.arc-duxford.co.uk/aircraft/buchon/

https://www.flyinglegends.com/aircraft/bf109-buchon-spit.html

These two articles focus on the collection of Wilson Edwards and the sale of the buchóns from it:

http://www.warbirdsnews.com/warbirds-news/wilson-connie-edwards.html

http://www.warbirdsnews.com/warbirds-news/messerschmitts-barn.html

Pickled Wings’ Flight 2016 is Now Boarding!

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The wheels are up and the doors are closing as we head into the New Year!

Please Fasten Your Seatbelts and Put Your Seats in the Upright Position.

It’s been a busy holiday period here at Pickled Wings. Here’s an overview of the changes:

I happened upon some new resources that allowed me to significantly overhaul two existing articles:

Every aspect of the article on the Orličan L-60 Brigadýr received significant expansion:

https://pickledwings.wordpress.com/orlican-l-60-brigadyr-succeeding-the-storch/

I was also able to expand on my article about the Aero L-29 Delfin, particularly with regards to engine development:

https://pickledwings.wordpress.com/aero-l-29-delfin-the-little-trainer-that-could-and-still-can/

Similar overhauls will be forthcoming to entries on the Let L-610 and the Olomouc Air Museum in the near future.

Other entries that saw some editing and updating, though less drastic, were those on the Czech air force base at Čáslav and the Kunovice Air Museum:

https://pickledwings.wordpress.com/galleries/airshows-and-open-days/caslav/

https://pickledwings.wordpress.com/museums/czech-museums/kunovice-air-museum-kunovice-czech-republic/

I also freshened up the photos in several other articles as well as the usual semi-regular shifting of posts from the main page to the menus.

Adjusting the Menus

Two changes in the main drop down menu at the top of the page involve the removal of the “Flying Stories” section and redistributing the entries there to subsections of the aircraft types relevant to them. For example, the article about my ride in an Antonov An-2 can now be found attached to my main An-2 article.

I also made a small adjustment to the new “Bookshelf” section in that each book in it will have its own separate page, so you will not need to scroll through a bunch of other titles to find the one you’re after.

Enjoy Your Flight

We’ve now reached cruising height. You may unfasten your seat belts and feel free to walk around.

Sopwith LCT – The “One and a Half Strutter”

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Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter replica seen at Čáslav, Czech Republic in 2015.

Establishing a Strong Pedigree

Perhaps no aircraft manufacturer’s name is as synonymous with British fighters of the First World War than the Sopwith Aviation Company. Established by the young English aviation pioneer, Thomas Sopwith, in 1912; the company provided Britain and its allies with a string of modern and capable fighters through much of that conflict. While the company bearing Sopwith’s name liquidated in 1920, it was far from the end of Sopwith’s own interests or involvement in aviation. In that same year, Sopwith along with test pilot Harry Hawker and two other men co-founded H.G. Hawker Engineering; that company would be renamed Hawker Aircraft in 1933 and give Great Britain some of its most famous aircraft types until its own dissolution in 1963.

Sopwith was a young company run by young men, mostly still in their 20s. As such, their designs tended to be more experimental and innovative than those of some of their counterpart companies. Beyond Sopwith himself, the nucleus of the company was formed of Australian born test pilot, Harry Hawker and Engineer, Fred Sigrist. Slightly later, Herbert Smith would join the company as a designer.

The origin of the 1 1/2 Strutter is found in a 1914 Fred Sigrist design of a small, two place biplane which first flew in summer of 1915 and was nicknamed “Sigrist’s Bus” as the only example of it built was used as a company transport.

The aircraft design was increased in size and given a more powerful Clerget engine. Christened the LCT, short for Land Clerget Tractor, the prototype aircraft took to the air for the first time in December of 1915. After a testing period, the aircraft was accepted into the Royal Naval Air Service in April of 1916 and the Royal Flying Corps in July of that same year.

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Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter replica seen at Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2014.

An Immediate Improvement

Until the introduction of the new Sopwith fighter, British fighter aircraft were built with rear mounted engines in a pusher configuration; while this gave the pilot and observer a completely unrestricted view forward, it left the aircraft very vulnerable to attacks from the rear as the observer could not easily if at all protect that area of the aircraft from his nose mounted gun position.

Unofficially nicknamed the 1 1/2 Strutter by the military, the new aircraft was the first British built fighter to have a tractor configuration engine and synchronizing gear for the pilot controlled forward firing gun. The observer was moved to a position behind the pilot and could easily defend the rear quarters of the aircraft with a ring mounted machine gun

Beyond the advantages of a tractor configuartion for the engine and improved armament, the aircraft also was a very advanced machine for the time. While largely of conventional construction, the 1 1/2 Strutter was a very clean and efficient design which proved reliable and possessed the range and endurace to fly missions deep behind enemy lines.

Despite all the advances the aircraft brought with it, it was not without shortcomings. It was a very stable aircraft and lacked the agility to truly dominate other fighters in a dogfight situation. It also was built lightly, a hallmark of all Sopwith aircraft that placed limits on maneuvers that could be done safely with it, such as steep dives.

While these shortcomings would ensure the aircraft would not have a long career as a fighter, the stability and range would ensure that it kept some degree of value as a bomber and recconaissance platform to the end of hostilities and beyond.

Perhaps the aircraft’s most significant role in the larger picture of aviation was in giving the Sopwith name prominence and placing the young company in good stead with the British military as a supplier. The 1 1/2 Strutter was the beginning of Sopwith’s prestigious line of fighter aircraft.

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Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter replica seen at Pardubice in 2014.

From the Somme to the Steppe

The 1 1/2 Strutter’s first major action came with the Battle of the Somme, which lasted from July to November of 1916. At the outbreak of the battle, the RFC had only a single squadron of the type and that had been made up of aircraft transfered from the RNAS.

For most of the offensive, the RFC aircraft gave a very good account of themselves and proved to be very popular with their crews. The aircraft had the range and endurance to penetrate deep behind German lines and had the armament to fight their way out.

As with so many combat aircraft of the First World War, the 1 1/2 Strutter was eclipsed in a relatively short span of time. By the time the second RFC squadron equipped with the type was activated in Autumn of 1916, the Albatros D series fighters had reached German fighter squadrons and were throughly outclassing the Sopwith fighter.

While the Somme offensive was considered a loss for Germany, the Albatros D series fighters, which debuted towards the end of the battle, marked Germany’s return to air superiority along the Western Front of the war and set the stage for the devastating losses they would hand to the RFC during the Battle of Arras in April and May of 1917.

Before 1917 was out, the RFC had completely replaced the 1 1/2 Strutter in front line units; retasking it with home defence, recconaissance and training duties.

While British forces had put the aircraft to second line duties, it saw significantly longer action on the front lines in French service. In fact, through license production, the French built the lion’s share of 1 1/2 Strutters at a total 4,500 examples.

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Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter replica seen at Pardubice in 2014.

The French used the aircraft primarily in the bombing role, it was used to replace their aging Farman and Breguet bombers, and equipped a majority of French day bomber units until the end of hostilities.

In the final years of the war, French built machines began finding their way to the militaries of other nations such as Belgium, the USA and Russia.

The end of the First World War was not the end of the 1 1/2 Strutter. Several British and French built examples were sent to Russia and were used by both the Red and White sides of the Russian Civil War. Several examples of the type in that conflict were captured by Poland and used by them in the Polish-Soviet War, which lasted from 1919 to 1921.

The type was also used by the Greek navy in the Greco-Turkish War of 1919 to 1922.

Between war time and post war operations, 1 1/2 Strutters were known to have flown in military service or been listed on the civil registers of no less than 20 countries.

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Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter replica seen at Pardubice in 2014.

What Remains and Learning More

With a combined total of over 5,900 examples between British and French production lines, plus smaller numbers built in Russia and Japan, it is surprizing that only four original 1 1/2 Strutters are known to still be with us today.

Two originals are in France; happily, one of them has been restored to airworthy status.

A third is kept in a museum in Belgium.

The fourth seems a bit elusive at the time of writing. It was a machine that spent some time on the Argentine civil register and then an American museum before being put in the hands of the Vintage Aviator Collection in New Zealand in 2010. At the time of writing, I can find no information on the current location or status of this aircraft.

Happily, for those who can’t easily access one of the originals, there are several replicas of the 1 1/2 Strutter either in museums or flying in various location around the world.

The following link will take you to the website of Memorial Flight, home of the airworthy original:
http://memorial.flight.free.fr/indexuk.html

These two links contain a two part, in-depth article on the type written in 1956:
http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1956/1956%20-%201390.html
http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1956/1956%20-%201434.html

This is a more abreviated and less technical summary of the type:
http://www.aerodromerc.com/WWI/Sopwith_1_Strutter/S_Strutter.pdf

Here are links to 1 1/2 Strutter articles on a couple of other blogs:
http://warbirdtails.net/2015/02/14/sopwiths-first-world-war-part-2-the-sopwith-1-12-strutter/
https://shortfinals.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/sopwith-one-and-a-half-strutter-crazy-name-great-aircraft/

The Ilyushin Il-14 Revisited

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A well restored Il-14 on display in Budapest Hungary in 2015

Today, I revisited one of my older entries on the blog, that of the Ilyushin Il-14. What was initially going to be the updating of a few pictures and the addition of a couple of new links became a complete rewrite of a couple of sections.

I think the article is better for the changes and I hope you’ll feel the same:

https://pickledwings.wordpress.com/illyushin-il-14-crate-carrying-the-postwar-load/

A Good Read – “Flying to Norway, Grounded in Burma”

I just finished reading “Flying to Norway, Grounded in Burma” by Goronwy ‘Gron’ Edwards DFC and enjoyed it very much.

The author became a tremendously experienced pilot in the RAF during the Second World War and his personal flight log included a wider variety of aircraft than many other pilots could lay claim to having flown. This experience is well covered through the length and breadth of the book, the reader is given respectable and accessible insight into the flying qualities af several machines.

One thing that sets this book apart from a lot of books about the RAF during the period is that it covers aspects of RAF activities in Coastal Command and operations in India and Burma. If you want to read RAF stories that don’t centre on Fighter Command and Bomber Command operations in the European Theatre, this is a very good book to consider.

Edwards started his RAF flying career in Coastal Command flying Avro Ansons and then Lockheed Hudsons, both less written about aircraft types. The author gives very good insight into working and flying with both types as well as taking the Hudson into combat against German aircraft and shipping.

From Coastal Command, Edwards spent a bit of time as in instructor at a navigational school before qualifying as a Specialist Armament Officer and being posted to India and Burma. this section of the book gives a good overview of what operations in Burma could be like.

The Author’s writing style has a very good balance of humour and poignancy and is quite accessible to the general interest reader as well as being satisfying to the more informed reader on the subject.

I can’t recommend this one enough.

You can find it available in both hardcover and electronic versions:

http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Flying-to-Norway-Grounded-in-Burma-Hardback/p/1770

Aeropark Museum – Budapest, Hungary

An Ilyushin Il-14 on display at Aeropark
An Ilyushin Il-14 on display at Aeropark

A Time Capsule by the Terminal

In October of 2015, I had the chance to visit the Aeropark Museum next to terminal 2B at Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt International Airport.

Established in 1988 and at its current location since 1991, Aeropark is a compact museum that focuses on preserving the history of Hungary’s former national airline, Malév. Through a collection of around a dozen aircraft and assorted ground support vehicles representing all eras of that airline’s existence, the museum represents the former airline very well indeed.

In my experience of visiting outdoor aviation museums, I was struck by the cleanliness and overall good condition visible in most of the aircraft on display at Aeropark. only one or two looked extremely faded and weathered and none of them looked like they were on the verge of falling apart, in fact, I saw very little corrosion evident on any of them. This is particularly unusual for aircraft constantly exposed to the elements and testament to the care and passion of Aeropark volunteers.

A Lisunov Li-2; the first airliner used by the Hungarian state airline when it was established in 1946.
A Lisunov Li-2; the first airliner used by the Hungarian state airline when it was established in 1946.

1946-2012: When Hungary had Wings

The beginnings of a national Hungarian airline began shortly after the end of the Second World War with the establishment of Maszovlet (Hungarian-Soviet Civil Air Transport Joint Stock Company) in 1946. The airline started with a fleet of Lisunov Li-2 airliners and a handful of Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes used as mail planes.

The airline’s name was changed to Malév in 1954 after Hungary acquired all the Soviet stocks and full control over the airline operations. By the late 1950s, the airline was replacing their Li-2 fleet with Ilyushin Il-14 aircraft. By the mid 1960s, Malév had taken on the larger Ilyushin Il-18 turboprop airliner. Before the 1960s were out, the airline had entered the jet transport age with the Tupolev Tu-134.

An Ilyushin Il-18, one of two in the Aeropark collection.
An Ilyushin Il-18, one of two in the Aeropark collection.

By the early 1970s, the Tupolev Tu-154 tri-jet had entered the Malév fleet and extended the airline’s reach considerably.

Significantly, in 1988, Malév became the first carrier among the then still Socialist European countries to operate a western designed and built aircraft when they began taking deliveries of the Boeing 737-200. By this time, they had also made progress in retiring several of the Soviet aircraft from their fleet.

Through the 1990s and early 2000s, Malév steadily replaced their remaining Soviet aircraft with western types. With the retirement of their last Tu-154 in 2001, the face of the airline was fully composed of western aircraft.

Aeropark's Tupolev Tu-134.
Aeropark’s Tupolev Tu-134.

Privatisation in 2007 marked a change in the fortunes of Malév. Through a succession of owners, the airline found itself renationalised in 2010 and receiving illegal financial aid from the Hungarian government.

In the wake of a European Union investigation and ruling, the airline was ordered to return the money to the Hungarian government; a move which thrust the carrier into financial ruin and heavy debt.

Malév was declared bankrupt and insolvent in February of 2012. At the time of writing, Hungary remains without a national airline.

The mighty Tupolev Tu-154, the largest aircraft in the  Aeropark collection.
The mighty Tupolev Tu-154, the largest aircraft in the Aeropark collection.

A Visit to Aeropark

Beyond the good condition of the aircraft on display, there is a good amount of space between them, this makes it easy to isolate a particular aircraft for a photograph with minimal interference from other aircraft. It also allows visitors to space themselves out enough to not get in each others’ way.

One can walk right up to all the aircraft and examine them closely. Exhibits which the museum does not want touched are clearly labeled as such.

On the day I visited, a guide who spoke reasonable English was on hand opening several of the aircraft for visitors to see the cockpits and other interior details. The aircraft cockpits are largely intact and complete if a bit worn in places from their long service lives. The details and transitions in technology between the aircraft is quite absorbing to take in.

For its tight subject focus on Malév and making sure all aircraft in the collection relate to that, Aeropark really is a unique museum that’s very much worth a visit if you’re in Budapest or the near vicinity.

The pilot and co-pilot stations of the Tupolev Tu-154.
The pilot and co-pilot stations of the Tupolev Tu-154.

Visiting Aeropark and Learning More

Aeropark is quite straightforward to reach via Budapest’s well organised public transportation system. A bus runs directly to the airport from the Kőbánya-Kispest metro station at regular intervals and the museum is a short walk along a well prepared pedestrian pavement from the terminal building.

The museum visiting hours are variable depending on the season.

This is a link to the Aeropark website. While it is only in Hungarian, I have found that it responds reasonably well to translation into English through online translator functions:

http://aeropark.hu/

Soko J-22 and Avioane Craiova IAR 93 – Of Eagles and Vultures

An NJ-22 Orao in the markings of the Serbian air force. Seen in Brno, Czech Republic in 2005.
An NJ-22 Orao in the markings of the Serbian air force. Seen in Brno, Czech Republic in 2005.

A Striker out of Alignment

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the former Yugoslavia faced the pressing problem of finding a replacement for its remaining fleet of obsolete American made Republic F-84 Thunderjet fighters as well as the domestically produced Soko J-21 Jastreb light strike aircraft which had partially replaced the Republic jet in Yugoslav service.

The idea of producing the new aircraft domestically appealed to Josip Broz Tito, then president of Yugoslavia, and was a preferable course of action owing to Yugoslavia’s membership in the Non-Aligned Movement which he helped establish in 1961. The initial vision was that the new aircraft could be an option for other non-aligned nations to consider in favour of designs coming from NATO or Warsaw Pact countries.

While the domestic aircraft producer, Soko, had experience building their own aircraft and license producing machines by foreign companies; the development and production costs of a more advanced, potentially supersonic type were simply beyond the country’s abilities to carry alone. A partner had to be found to share the load.

A Partner Found and a Compromise Made

A partner for the project was found in Romania. The then president of Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu, shared Tito’s enthusiasm for such a project as the new aircraft represented and was quick to agree to a share in it. The project would serve that nation well on two fronts as it would not only give them much needed experience and credibility in modern aircraft design, the resulting aircraft would provide them with a replacement for ther fleets of Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 and MiG-17 fighters.

In 1971, the YuRom joint venture was formalized between the two nations with research and development began in earnest shortly after. Two problems delayed development of the new aircraft: Romania’s lesser degree of experience in aeronautical design, Avioane Craiova had been set up in 1972 specifically to carry Romania’s share in the project, and difficulty developing an effective afterburner for the Rolls Royce Viper engine which had been chosen for the new machine. The latter problem proved to be a constant one for the aircraft throughout its development and, with the exception of one supersonic flight done in a shallow dive in 1984, the aircraft remained firmly subsonic in performance.

The Romanian and Yugoslav prototypes had simultaneous maiden flights in late October of 1974. However, the flight development program was marked with delays from accidents and a great deal of experimentation with wing design options. Before the 1970s were out, three of the Romanian pre-production aircraft and one of the Yugoslav ones had been lost in crashes. Engine problems had been a factor in one crash while tail flutter, a situation in which part or all of the tail vibrates to structural failure, was the cause of two of the other crashes.

Another view of the  NJ-22 Orao at Brno in 2005.
Another view of the NJ-22 Orao at Brno in 2005.

Into Uniform

The new aircraft entered Yugoslav air force service as the Soko J-22 Orao (Eagle) in 1978 while its Romanian counterpart, the IAR 93 Vultur (Vulture) entered its respective country’s air force the following year.

The aircraft was a robust and relatively straight forward machine to maintain with no exotic avionics or radar. It was designed to be operable from austere field conditions and capable of taking off and landing from dirt or grass strips if need be. In these qualities, and somewhat in appearance, the aircraft could be seen as something of a counterpart to the Anglo-French Sepecat Jaguar strike aircraft whch had been developed and put into service on a slightly earlier timescale.

As one might expect of a machine developed outside of the superpower nations, produced in relatively small numbers and served only a modest number of air arms; the J-22 and IAR-93 led largely uneventful and unremarkable service lives. In the case of the J-22, however, a baptism of fire would come with the fall of Socialism in 1989 which precipitated the breakup of Yugoslavia and the begining of the Yugoslav wars which lasted from 1991 to 2001.

Initially operating under the jurisdiction of the Yugoslav air force, until that body was disolved in 1992, J-22s were used against targets in Croatia.

The Bosnian War (1992-1995) resulted in a number of former Yugoslav J-22s falling into the possession of the Republika Srpska air force.

The aircraft were used in a series of actions against the Kosovo Liberation Army in 1999.

The effect that the Yugoslav wars and the United Nations embargoes that accompanied them had on the aircraft and its creators was an excercise in contrasts:

Romania ceased production of the IAR-93 in 1992 and the type was completely retired from Romanian service by 1998. Avioane Craiova still exisits today as an aircraft manufacturer; producing its own IAR-99 jet trainer and providing a diverse selection of aviation services.

The J-22 Orao still flies in limited numbers with the Serbian air force. Soko aircraft factories were regularly targeted and attacked during the Yugoslav wars and the company was effectively out of the aircraft production business in the early 1990s as a result. Some of the company’s aviation production assets were relocated to the facilities of UTVA, another Yugoslav aircraft manufacturer that had worked very closely with Soko on the J-22.

Soko still exists today, but was substantially restructured in the late 1990s. Its aircraft division was not restarted and their present business seems to focus on refrigeration and air conditioning equipment.

What Remains and Learning More

Your chances of seeing a J-22 flying outside of Serbia are likely quite remote due to the small number still active, their advancing age and their relatively rare airshow appearances.

As of 2015, there are around 15 IAR-93 aircraft preserved in museums around Romania as well as examples preserved in Slovakia and Slovenia.

A similar number of J-22 Oraos are preserved in Museums around Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This link will take you to a summary of the J-22 at the Aeronautical Museum of Belgrade, Serbia:
http://www.muzejvazduhoplovstva.org.rs/eksponati.php?jez=eng&id=34

This is the IAR-93 page at the Avioane Craiova website:
http://www.acv.ro/products_en.php?m=1&s=5

This page contains a photogallery of derelict IAR-93s in Romania in 2006:
http://www.targeta.co.uk/craiova_2006.htm