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Serbia officially retires MiG-21, 8 months after crash of last operational airframe

Serbian miG-21 retirement
Photo: Serbian defense ministry

The Serbian defense ministry held a formal retirement ceremony for its MiG-21 fleet this weekend, eight months after losing the last operational airframe in a crash in September 2020.

Following the farewell ceremony at the “Colonel Pilot Milenko Pavlović” military airport on May 21, the Serbian Air Force is left with the Soko J-22 Orao subsonic ground-attack and aerial reconnaissance aircraft as its sole fixed-wing platform aside from smaller trainer jets.

Over the course of 58 years, Serbia operated a total of 261 MiG-21s bought from the former Soviet Union between the 1960s and 1980s.

The Serbian defense ministry said the supersonic jet is the holder of several records and the most-produced aircraft in aviation history, more specifically, 11,496 airframes in 32 versions. It has been used for six decades in the air forces of more than 60 countries on four continents.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Dejan Beda, Assistant Commander for Operations, 204th Air Brigade, who spent many years in MiG-21’s cockpit, the story of the “twenty-one” is inextricably linked to the Batajnica airport because every MiG-21 that ever arrived in the country’s military aviation took off and landed on that runway.

Serbia’s first unit to be equipped with 41 MiG-21 F-13s was the 204th Fighter Aviation Regiment. By the end of 1964, that regiment had three squadrons armed with these aircraft. It is interesting that for the first four years there were no two-seaters. The pilots were trained and underwent refresher training on US-made TV-2 aircraft, Colonel Beda pointed out.

It is worth noting that the service bid farewell to the type eight months after its final operational airframe, which was only used for training purposes, crashed in September 2020. Two Serbian Air Force pilots were killed in the accident.