Derelict Report 2 – Soko G-2 Galeb somewhere in Zagreb

By me
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.

A familiar shape and sound in the skies of former Yugoslavia, the G-2 is one of the region's most distinctive aircraft

A familiar shape and sound in the skies of former Yugoslavia, the G-2 is one of the region's most distinctive aircraft

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”).

Top view. Though not as elegant as many advanced trainers, the G-2 still has an eye-pleasing design

Top view. Though not as elegant as many advanced trainers, the G-2 still has an eye-pleasing - and to many student pilots, comforting - design. It just looks right πŸ™‚

The G-2 in its element, in the hands of an experienced pilot :). The big, straight, thick wings just scream excellent low-altitude handling... and down in the ground effect, I'm told the G-2 is a pleasure to fly

The G-2 in its element, in the hands of an experienced pilot :). The big, straight, thick wings just scream excellent low-altitude handling... and down in the ground effect, I'm told the G-2 is a pleasure to fly

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.

661 at Airliners.net, photographed by Mr. Chris Lofting

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…

Abandoned and unnoticed, but perfectly visible from the road - and not a hundred meters away from the city's main east-west road!

Abandoned and unnoticed, but perfectly visible from the road - and not a hundred meters away from the city's main east-west artery!

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).

The first time I've seen a G-2 without tiptanks. Though they were detachable, they were almost always carried, which may suggest that this is quite an early version of the aircraft

The first time I've seen a G-2 without tiptanks. Though they were detachable, they were almost always carried, providing an additional 170 kg of fuel each

The code 007 suggest this might be a war veteran. Nowadays that code belongs to an UTVA-75 piston primary trainer (which was at the time of writing probably already withdrawn from service). An interesting tidbit is the checkered stripe around the fuselage - like on most 50-60s designs, to remove/replace the engine, you'd have to detach the whole rear fuselage and unmount the engine. The joint between that removable section and the rest of the airframe is here - unusually - labelled by that stripe

The code 007 suggest this might be a war veteran. Nowadays that code belongs to an UTVA-75 piston primary trainer (which was at the time of writing probably already withdrawn from service). An interesting tidbit is the checkered stripe running around the fuselage; like on most 50-60s designs, to remove/replace the engine, you'd first have to detach the whole rear fuselage. The joint between that removable section and the rest of the airframe is here - unusually - labeled by that stripe

Though nothing heavy appears to have been removed - except the cockpit instruments - 007 tipped over at some point, probably with some assistance. The two .50 cal Brownings are still on, which suggests this aircraft was spared the usual vandalism and cannibalism

Though nothing heavy appears to have been removed from the front - except the cockpit instruments - 007 had tipped over at some point, probably with some assistance. The two .50 cal Brownings are still on, which suggests this aircraft was spared the usual vandalism and cannibalization. Later investigation - we were seriously toying with the idea of buying and restoring it - showed that 007 was actually privately owned, which would explain why it was relatively unscathed

Though in serious need of a wash, the whole aircraft appeared to be structurally intact. Even the engine was still in the fuselage, though the tailpipe was damaged, probably when the aircraft tipped over

Though in serious need of a wash, the whole aircraft appeared to be structurally intact. Even the engine was still in the fuselage, though the tailpipe was damaged, probably when the aircraft tipped over. A couple of odd access panels were missing, but that would be an easy fix πŸ™‚

Up front, even the split canopy appeared to be in good shape - even the lock mechanism worked

Up front, even the split canopy appeared to be in good shape - even the lock mechanism worked

With houses this close, one has to wonder how are people so oblivious to the things that go on around them...

With houses this close, one has to wonder how are people so oblivious to the things that go on around them... it's not like you have a jet trainer in front of every house πŸ˜€

Like almost all such aircraft, the G-2 has two side-mounted air intakes. Positioned relatively high up meant the G-2 could operate out of second-rate fields without a significant FOD risk

Like almost all such aircraft, the G-2 has two side-mounted air intakes. Being positioned relatively high up meant the G-2 could operate out of second-rate fields without a significant risk of FOD

A sad sight... but certainly an interesting find and a great addition to my "What the..." file :)

Not easily identifiable is one permanent hardpoint outboard of the main landing gear. The large flaps - which could be lowered to more than 45 degrees if I remember correctly - permitted low approach speeds and made the G-2 a dream to land smoothly

A moody February afternoon sky is a perfect backdrop for 007

A moody February afternoon sky is a perfect backdrop for 007

One day, one day she will reach for the skies again (poetic moment :D). The current owner has some plans to restore 007 to flying condition which - given that the G-2 was the aviation equivalen of the VW Beetle - shouldn't be too hard as far as spares and qualified technicians are concerned... as of 2009., 007 has been moved somewhere and rumor has it she's finally being worked on :)

One day she will reach for the skies again (poetic moment :D). The current owner has some plans to restore 007 to flying condition which - given that the G-2 was the aviation equivalent of the VW Beetle - shouldn't be too hard as far as spares and qualified technicians are concerned... as of 2009., 007 has been moved somewhere and rumor has it she's finally being worked on πŸ™‚

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