Silver Birds over the Estuary - The MiG-21 in Yugoslav and Serbian Air Force service, 1962-2019

Published: January 26th, 2021     
Product Image
Author: Bojan Dimitrijevic and Milan Micevski
Reviewed by: Frank Landrus - IPMS# 35035
ISBN #: 978-1-913118693
Other Publication Information: Soft Bound ; 8.3” x 11.8”, 80 pages
Price: $29.95
Product / Stock #: HEL1196
Product provided by: Casemate Publishers

Helion is a UK based company that produces books on many aspects of Military History from the Late Medieval period through to the present day. Helion was established in 1996, and since then they have published almost 1,200 books, with 100 or more new titles coming out every year, for readers around the world. Helion's sixth book in the Europe @ War series is a square back soft cover includes 80 gloss paper pages. This has become a popular series and more books in the Europe @ War series are planned for 2021.

Bojan Dimitrijevic is working as a historian and is Deputy Director of the Institute for Contemporary History, Belgrade, Serbia. Educated at the Universities of Belgrade and Novi Sad, CEU Budapest and the University of Bradford, he has also worked as the custodian of the Yugoslav Aviation Museum. During the period 2003-2009, Dimitrijevic served as advisor to the Minister of Defense, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the President of Serbia, and as Assistant to the Minister of Defense. He has published over 50 different books and more than 100 scientific articles in Serbia and abroad. His professional interest is in the military history of the former Yugoslavia and Balkans in World War Two, the Cold War as well as wars in the 1990s. He has 5 installments in the @War series.

Milan Micevski is an entrepreneur from Belgrade, he has been exploring archives and collecting data on aviation history for more than three decades. He is considered one of the leading experts in the field of the Yugoslav Air Force as well as Soviet Aviation in former Yugoslavia. With Bojan Dimitrijevic, he has so far co-authored seven books on different aspects of Yugoslav Air Force history, and has worked with other authors two other volumes. This is his first instalment for Helion.

The cover features a color photograph of a 1970s RV i PVO [Ratno vazduhoplovstvo i protivvazdusna odbrana] lineup on the tarmac. Based on tactical numbers there are three MiG-21R (104, 105, and 106) aircraft and a MiG-21PFM (715) of the 352nd Reconnaissance Aviation Squadron. The color side view by Tom Cooper is of a MiG-21PFM (s/n 22719), in RAF inspired camouflage in 1979. It was soon returned to its standard metal finish. The rear cover also depicts two color side profiles by Tom Cooper. The upper side profile is a MiG-21MF (22865) and the lower side profile is a MiG-21F-13. I counted 15 color pictures and 151 black and white photographs. There also 9 aviation color side profiles by Tom Cooper, one black and white map, one full color map, and eleven tables.

Post WWII Yugoslavia had a mix of German, Soviet, and US aircraft (and other military equipment) mainly due to Josip Broz Tito's personal conflict with Joseph Stalin. Truman's US Support program ended in 1958 and was not continued. Looking to replace the US F-86D and F-86E Sabres and F-84 Thunderjets with a Mach 2 fighter, Yugoslavia first turned to the Dassault Mirage IIIC fighter. Unfortunately, siding against the French in Algeria ended that desire. Reaching out to the Soviet Union (Stalin had died in 1953), Yugoslavia found a partner willing to provide MiG-21s for a price. Eventually, 267 MiG-21 aircraft of at least a dozen different variants served from 1962 through 2020. Three of the two seater trainers (MiG-21UM) are still in use after recently being overhauled in Serbia.

Bojan Dimitrijevic and Milan Micevski bring their extensive research from archival, museum sources, interviews, and eyewitness sources. Most of the photographs included in this book have never been published before. Kicking off the book with Plan Grom (Thunder), the authors describe the initiation of Yugoslavia into the Mach 2 club. Starting off with MiG-21F-13s, pilots and technicians were provided entry level training in Russia. Conversions from North American Sabres is detailed by unit, as well as upgrades to upgraded versions of the MiG-21 series. The MiG-21bis was the last of the MiG-21s to be delivered in 1983, where the MiG-21 fleet was the dominant aircraft in the Yugoslavian Air Force. When Yugoslavia descended into Civil War in 1991, the primary role of the MiG-21's was as a fighter-bomber. The sections include:

  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • RV i PVO's Designations for MiG-21 Aircraft [Table]
  • Plan Grom
    • First Conversion of the Yugoslav Pilots
    • Initial Deliveries
    • Conversion in 204th Fighter Regiment at Batajnica [Page 07]
    • Further Conversions and Improvement of Combat Capability
    • A New Version Enters the Inventory: PFM or L-14
    • MiG-21s or the RV i PVO, 1 December 1967 [Table]
    • Enter 117th Regiment
    • August 1968: Czechoslovak Crisis or Exercise Avala
    • Reconnaissance MiGs
  • MiGs of the 1970s
    • Large Exercises
    • Podgora 72 and the Crisis with Italy in 1974
    • Photoreconnaissance, ELINT and SIGINT Missions
    • QRA for Tito's Residence in the Brioni Islands
    • 83rd Regiment and Pristina AB
    • 83rd Aviation Brigade - A Yugoslav Air Defence Experiment
    • Overhauls
    • MiG-21s of the RV i PVO, 1 February 1975 [Table]
    • Backbone of the Air Force [Page 25]
    • Alert Caused by Marshall Tito's Illness
    • MiG-21s of the RV i PVO, 31 August 1979 [Table]
  • 83rd at Pristina is Re-Equipped
    • MiGs Join the Military Air Academy
    • Concepts and Problems of the Yugoslav Fighter Aviation in the First Half of the 1980s
    • New Ordnance Expands MiG-21 Strike Capabilities
    • LORAP - American Reconnaissance Container Under the Soviet MiGs
    • 1986 - Last Reorganization of the RV i PVO
    • MiG-21s of the RV i PVO, 31 October 1988 [Table]
    • MiG-21s at the Aviation Test Centre
    • Early 1989: Events in Kosovo
  • Color Illustrations [Page 32i]
  • At War
    • Combat Sorties by 117th Fighter Aviation Regiment During the War in Slovenia, 27 June - 4 July 1991 [Table]
    • Short War in Slovenia
    • The War Expands to Croatia [Page 44]
    • MiG-21s of 117th Aviation Brigade 19 September 1991 [Table]
    • MiG-21s of the RV i PVO, 30 November 1991 [Table]
    • Effectiveness of the MiG-21bis in the 1991 Strike Missions
    • An Unexpected Incident: Shooting Down of EC Helicopters
    • Ceasefire Cahallenges
    • MiG-21s in the First Phase of the Bosnian War
    • Combat Sorties of the RV i PVO MiG-21s in 1992 [Table]
  • Shortened Yugoslavia
    • MiG-21s of the RV i PVO, March 1993 [Table]
    • 1991 - MiGs Return to Air Defence
    • Squadron Names and Symbols
    • Decade of Technical Problems
    • The "Dayton Accord" Downsizing in 1997
  • Kosovo Crisis
    • Gradual Mobilization
    • Deployment of the Yugoslav MiGs Prior to the Air Campaign
    • Allied Force: The MiG-21 Fleet Order Not To Take Off!
    • Hammering the MiG Bases
    • The End of Allied Force [Page 62]
  • Serbian Air Force
    • MiG-21s in Yugoslav and Serbian Service, 1962-2006 [Table]
  • Bibliography
  • Notes

I found many of the topics very interesting. One in particular was the essentially non-use of the MiG-21 fleet in the Kosovo Crisis of 1998 and 1999. Clinton declared a "national emergency" in June 1998 that activated NATO. The RV i PVO MiG-21s did no fly any combat sorties at all for the fear of NATO aircraft easily taking them out and what the negative headlines would be with the downing of any MiG-21s. As it happened, NATO forces had no issue taking out the RV i PVO's more advanced MiG-29s, but in the end, over half of the MiG-21s were destroyed, parked on the ground.

Bojan Dimitrijevic and Milan Micevski together provide a good history of the implementation, development, and operational use of the MiG-21 platform in the Yugoslavian and Serbian Air Forces. The contemporary photographs support the text, and certainly give you a good perspective of the events described. It took me a three days to read this volume and it flowed well. If you own one the previous releases in Helion's "@ War" series, you know what you are getting. If this is your initial entry into this series, you will be quite pleased.

My thanks to Helion & Company, Casemate Publishing, and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.

Highly recommended!

  • Front Cover
    Front Cover
  • Rear Cover
    Rear Cover
  • Sample Page 7
    Sample Page 7
  • Sample Page 25
    Sample Page 25
  • Sample Page 32
    Sample Page 32
  • Sample Page 44
    Sample Page 44
  • Sample Page 62
    Sample Page 62

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