Despite the fact having slipped by me for 11 and half months now, 2009. is a very important year for Croatian aviation – not only is the Croatian Air Force 18 years old this month (does that mean that it’s aircraft can now fly alone? :D), but this year also marks almost 100 years of aviation in Croatia, all the way from its modest start in 1910. and the first airplane built by Slavoljub Penkala, a noted Croatian inventor of Polish-Dutch origin (and coincidentally also the inventor of the mechanical pencil and fountain pen). To commemorate both of these occasions, the Croatian Military Museum had decided to put together a large photo exhibition, displaying publicly for the first time almost all available Croatian military aviation photos, from the first biplanes to the latest jets. [brag] I myself was also honored by having one photo on display, a first for me and proof that hauling all my photo gear around airshows the past few years does indeed pay off! [/brag] 🙂
The exhibition, opened on 15 December, was naturally split into several periods, of which the Interwar period (1918. to 1941.) and WW2 caught my attention the most. Two of the largest and most impressive sections – with almost 150 photos in total – they represented a very colorful part of aviation in Croatia, showing the smorgasbord of aircraft of all shapes and sizes that had been operated by the Air Force of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and its “successor” forces, the Facist Ustaška Eskadrila and the socialist Partisan Air Force (and its Allied supporter, the Royal Air Force’s Balkan Air Force).
Naturally, these periods being the highlight of Borongaj’s history, I immediately combed through the collection, searching for aircraft that had been out of that airfield. The end list – by no means complete, there were a lot of photos to go through! – is impressive and encompasses over a dozen types from all corners of Europe.
1. From Czech Mate to the French Connection:
Given the shifting political and economic situation between the two World Wars, these aircraft ended up coming from all over Europe, from the UK to former Czechoslovakia (interestingly, the only major country with a significant aeronautical industry missing is Poland – though the Royal Yugoslav Air Force and its successors did operate Polish designs from other bases). It should be noted also that these only represent a fraction of the types operated by the various air forces of Yugoslavia and that the whole list would be significantly longer…
- AVIA FL.3 – a small Italian side-by-side two-seater. Used by the Ustaška Eskadrila primarily for pilot training (later in the war some were also based at Lučko I believe)
- Avia BH.33E – a biplane fighter with – interestingly – a shorter span upper wing than the lower (usually it’s the other way around, in which case the aircraft is a “sesquiplane”). Produced in a different Avia, this one from former Czechoslovakia
- Breguet 19 – a biplane (and a real sesquiplane this time) light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft produced by Breguet of France
- Dornier Do-17 (K and Z models) – the famous German high-speed light bomber from the early WW2 years
- Dornier Do-Y – a very, very rare three-engined bomber designed by Claude Dornier (his second) back in the 30s. Few in number, I’m not sure if they had survived till the war…
- Fiat G-50bis – a late 30’s Italian monoplane fighter, operated by both the RYAF (which had bought them pre-war) and the Ustaška Eskadrila (which had also received some new examples). Reportedly, only one survives to this day, kept in the basement of the Aeronautical Museum at Belgrade Airport, Serbia
- Fieseler Fi-156C-1 Storch – the legendary German get-in-anywhere-anytime utility aircraft 🙂
- Fiesler Fi-167A-0 – most probably the biggest oddity and rarity on this list, this carrier-borne torpedo bomber was transferred Croatia once it became apparent that Germany’s projected carrier, the Graf Zeppelin (for which the Fi-167 was designed) was going nowhere. Never seeing serial production, the models used by the Ustaška Eskadrila were all A-0 pre-production versions
- Focke-Wulf FW.44B – a very well known German biplane training aircraft, much used before and during WW2. Unlike all other models which were powered by a Siemens radial, the B model unusually sported an Argus As 8 four-cyl inverted-V engine of 120 HP. Unfortunately, while the FW.44 as a type was quite common, the B models were rare, so pictures are hard to find…
- Fokker F.IX (Avia F.39) – of similar class as the Do-Y, the Fokker F.IX started life in the 20s as a three-engined airliner. Though failing to gain a significant market as such, it did get some lease of life as a bomber, produced under license in Czechoslovakia as the Avia F.39. Like the Do-Y, they were operated by the RYAF and probably withdrawn from service before WW2
- Hawker Fury Mk.IA and Mk.II – this very clean and fast British biplane fighter, a conceptual descendant of Hawker’s Hart bomber (an aircraft that in its day could outrun all existing fighters), was manufactured under license in Yugoslavia, hence it’s widespread use in the RYAF
- Hawker Hurricane Mk.I – does this even need an introduction or a photo? 🙂
- Ikarus IK-2 – another rarity on the list is a home-grown monoplane fighter, the not-at-all bad looking IK-2. Resembling a number of Polish high-wing monoplane and parasol fighters, this 1934 aircraft was used by both the RYAF and the Ustaška Eskadrila, and though a good dogfighter, it was no match for modern Axis and Allied fighters and was retired in 1944.
- Messerschmitt Bf.109G-6 – like the Hurricane, this one’s pretty straightforward 🙂
- Potez 25 ‘Jupiter’ – though this one isn’t. Used among other thing to start the first mail service from Borongaj to Belgrade, this French biplane/sesquiplane fighter-bomber saw widespread use in various air forces, including those of the Soviet Union, USA and Poland. The ‘Jupiter’, Yugoslavia’s license-built version, was powered by the Gnome-Rhone 9ac Jupiter radial
- Rogožarski R-100 – another indigenous design, the R-100 was an intermediate trainer, the last step before the prospective student pilot was bolted into something armed and fast. Used initially by the RYAF, later in the war they were armed by the Ustaška Eskadrila with 80 and 100 kg bombs and used as ad-hoc divebombers
- SIM X – something unknown that has the same name as Microsoft’s Flight Sim X, significantly complicating my search effort 😀