All photos me too
Musing over the previous Mi-6 article today at the airfield, I suddenly remembered another very interesting derelict I had seen and photographed ages ago, one that could also be made into a good story. Oddly misplaced in the western districts of Zagreb – not a hundred meters away from one of the city’s main traffic arteries – but completely forgotten and ignored, it was instant Achtung Skyhawk material :).
The aircraft in question is a Soko G-2 Galeb jet trainer, former Yugoslavia’s most successful jet aircraft – some would argue it’s most successful aircraft full stop. Produced by the Soko (“hawk”) plant in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Galeb (“seagull”) was conceived as a cheap, simple and robust primary jet trainer, easy and forgiving to fly, but still capable of pulling some serious maneuvers.
Outwardly similar to the well-known Aermacchi MB.326 – and the more obscure Chinese Shenyang JJ-1 prototype – the G-2 uses the tried-and-tested straight-wing tandem-seat configuration, powered by a single license-built Rolls-Royce Viper Mk.22 turbojet, rated at 11.12 kN dry. The sound airframe was usually equipped with one or more underwing hardpoints for training rounds, and was later developed into a dedicated single-seat ground attack variant, the J-1 Jastreb (“goshawk”).
First flown in 1961., the G-2 has performance numbers typical for an aircraft of its class and period, with a maximum speed of around 810 km/h – 440 kts – at an altitude of 20,000 ft, a service ceiling of 39,000 ft and a 1240 km range with tip tanks (which were almost always carried). A tough little bird, the G-2 can do anything between +8 and -4 G and is a delight to fly in all flight regimes and at all speeds – a fact underlined by enthusiastic reviews of the USAF and French test pilots that flew it in the 70s and 80s.
As the main training aircraft of the former Jugoslovensko ratno vazduhoplovstvo (JRV, Yugoslav Air Force), G-2s were scattered around Yugoslavia in large numbers, in Croatia being mostly concentrated at Zemunik airbase near Zadar, then one of the JRV’s main training fields. However, with the breakup of Yugoslavia imminent at the beginning of the 90s, they were – like virtually all air force assets – recalled to Serbia. During the ensuing civil war, a number were then again captured by Croatian forces and pressed into service, though their combat histories – if any – remain obscured and ambiguous and vary depending on who you ask.
Be that as it may, today only one G-2 is known to have remained in service with the Croatian Air Force, coded 661 (a famous bird that), though how active it was during this time is also open to speculation. Today it serves pretty much as a showcase piece at air force events and can only rarely be seen by the general public.
One would have thought “well that’s that then”. But in a turn that demonstrated that truth really is stranger than fiction, a friend of mine came across a near-mint example sitting unnoticed right in the middle of Zagreb’s busiest western district…
From what we could piece together, this G-2 was all that was left of some military barracks that were torn down more than a dozen years ago to make way for a new housing development (this was in 2008). Quite possibly a former gate guardian, now it was just dumped in the back of a local carting center across the road from the former barracks and left to the elements. Despite that, it was in surprisingly good shape, with only a couple of odd parts missing (on the outside at least).