The most important warplanes for combat activities were fighter, bomber and reconnaissance. This units was cluster under the high command as well the opinion of the Yugoslav officials, in 1940, was that it is the best way to operate with relatively weak forces.

Aero-detasmanFighters were formed into escadrilles, groups, regiments and brigades. Escadrille was base units, which had 12 planes and it could be divided into patrols with two to three planes each. Escadrille was lead by captain. Group was tactical unit leaded by major and consisted of two to three escadrilles. Regiment present higher tactical unit, strength of two to three regiment and lead by lt. colonel or colonel. Brigade was formed from two to three regiments and is always lead by officer in rank of colonel. Higher unit could present air division with two to three brigade or four to six regiments. Only distance of this rule present proposed twin engine fighter units, where the escadrille should have nine planes. Yugoslavia does not have twin engine fighter unit but there was intention in peacetime order to operate two groups, 51. and 52. with that kind of planes.

History of the fighter units begin in 1919, when was formed four escadrille of mixed equipment (fighter and reconnaissance). That was 1., 2., 3. a 4. escadrille on Novi Sad, Sarajevo, Skoplje and Zagreb airfields. Each escadrille had approximately six planes and that was SPAD, Berg, Albatros and D-3. In the autumn of 1919 were formed fighter department in Nis, which was disbanded in spring 1921. In November 1923 was formed, on Novi Sad airfield, fighter escadrille of 1. vazduhoplovna komanda (1. aeronautical command) and deployed all planes from equipment of 1., 2., 3. and 4. escadrille. This fighter escadrille was renamed, in November 1924, in 5. lovacka eskadrila (5. fighter escadrille). In spring 1926 was formed, on Novi Sad airfield, 10. lovacka eskadrila.

Breguet-71-eskadrilaIn the spring of 1927 on Novi Sad airfield was formed staff of 121. lovacka grupa (fighter group), which employ 5. and 10. lovacka eskadrila, renamed as 251. and 252. eskadrila; also was formed 125. lovacka grupa with staff and 271. and 272. eskadrila, which was later permanently rebased and stationed on “Beograd” airfield. Staff of 6. vazduhoplovni puk was established, in spring 1928, on “Beograd” airfield, employing 125. lovacka grupa. Summer 1929 bring to 6. vazduhoplovni puk new 127. lovacka grupa, with staff, 281. and 282. eskadrila. In the beginning of 1932 on “Beograd” airfield was established new 274. eskadrila within 125. grupa of 6. vazduhoplovni puk. When the new 126. grupa was formed (with staff and 275. eskadrila), in the beginning of 1937, 274. eskadrila was deleted from 125. grupa and join this new group. Great organization was done in 1938 with some new units formed. On the airfield “Beograd” 125. grupa with staff and 271. and 272 eskadrila was renamed into 31. grupa with staff and 101. and 102. eskadrila; 126. grupa with staff and 274. and 275. eskadrila were renamed into 32. grupa [fighter] with staff and 103. and 104. eskadrila. Both groups were from 6. vazduhoplovni puk. On the “Zagreb” airfield 4. grupa [reconnaissance] with staff and 4. and 81. eskadrila was renamed into 33. grupa [now became fighter] with staff and 105. and 106. eskadrila. On Novi Sad airfield [Jugovicevo] was formed 34. group [fighter] with staff and 107. and 108. eskadrila, renamed from 121. grupa [fighter] with staff and 251. and 252. eskadrila. Within 6. vazduhoplovni puk 127. grupa with staff and 281. and 282 eskadrila was reformed into the 51. grupa [fighter] with staff and 161. and 162. eskadrila. On the airfield on Mostar were formed 52. grupa [fighter] with staff and 163. and 164. eskadrila from 233. grupa [bomber] with staff and 407. and 408. eskadrila. This unit stays within 7. vazduhoplovni puk [bomber] but did not received fighter planes. In the spring of 1939 new 35. grupa was formed on Nis airfield, with its staff and 109. and 110. eskadrila while 34. grupa with staff and 107. and 108. eskadrila were rebased from Novi Sad to Zagreb.

Breguet-401-eskadrilaNew fighter units were formed in the spring of 1940. There were, on Zagreb airfield staff of 4. vazduhoplovni puk became fighter unit and deploy 33. and 34 fighter groups. Two new eskadrila enter in to the 6. vazduhoplovni puk, 141. eskadrila was deployed into the 31. grupa and 142. eskadrila was deployed into the 32. grupa. Staff of 5. vazduhoplovni puk, on Nis airfield, deployed 35. grupa [fighter] with staff and 109. and 110. eskadrila and 21. grupa became fighter unit [previously reconnaissance] and with its staff and 41., 42. and 43. eskadrila also was deployed in 5. vazduhoplovni puk. In the beginning of march 1941 on the airfield “Beograd” was formed staff of 2. vazduhoplovni puk [fighter] and deployed 31. grupa from 6. vazduhoplovni puk and 52. grupa from 7. vazduhoplovni puk. In the Nis were formed 36. grupa [fighter] with staff and 111. and 112. eskadrila, reformed from 21. grupa [fighter] with staff and 41., 42. and 43. eskadrila. Until the war Yugoslavia fighter aviation had one staff of brigade, four fighter regiments with total of 18 escadrille.

Bomber units were similarly organized as fighter units with that instance that bomber escadrille had nine planes in and smaller unit was flight of three planes. First bomber units were formed in November 1924 when was formed 8. Eskadrila in Skoplje and 9. Eskadrila in Mostar. In the autumn 1926 were formed 352. Eskadrila [bomber] on Mostar and this unit had to join to the structure of the 7. Regiment. On Skoplje were formed 401. Eskadrila renamed from 8. Eskadrila. In the spring of next year were formed 402. Eskadrila and together with 401. Eskadrila enter into the new formed 231. Grupa. New 231. Grupa became part of the 3. Regiment in Skoplje. Summer 1929 bring new units on Zagreb airfield. There was staff of 263. Grupa with 430. And 431. Eskadrila and that unit’s entry into the structure of the 4. Bomber regiment. In autumn 1931 were formed 233. Grupa with 407. and 408. eskadrila. These units became part of the 7. bomber regiment. Few months later, in the beginning of 1932, 7th regiment deployed new formed 409. and 355. escadrille. Within 1. regiment in Novi Sad was new 232. grupa with 403. and 404. eskadrila. On Zagreb airfield were formed 432. and 433. eskadrila and deployed in 4. regiment [puk]. First heavy bomber unit was formed in the autumn 1933 on Beograd airfield with three engine bombers and that was 261. grupa with 426. and 427. Eskadrila. Couple of new units was formed in the beginning 1937. Staff of 264. grupa with 432. and 433. eskadrila on airfield Zagreb and on Mostar staff of 202. grupa and deployed 353. and 354. eskadrila [renamed from 409. eskadrila].

Do-YReorganization of aviation started from the early 1938 and from those period units was reformed with some of new established. On Jugovicevo airfield was formed 61. grupa with staff, 201. and 202. eskadrila reformed from 1. reconnaissance group with staff, 1st and 31st eskadrila. Also 62. grupa was formed with staff, 203. and 204. eskadrila from previously 232. grupa with staff and 403. and 404. eskadrila. New units got third regiments in Skoplje. That was 63. grupa with staff, 205. and 206. eskadrila, reformed from 3. reconnaissance group with staff, 3. and 71. eskadrila. Also there was 64. grupa with staff and 208. and 209. eskadrila all reformed from 231. grupa, 401. and 402. eskadrila. New 35. grupa was formed with staff and 207. and 210. eskadrila, reformed from 5. reconnaissance group, 5. and 91. eskadrila. Several units reformed on Mostar and that was 66. grupa with staff, with 211. and 212. eskadrila, reformed from201. grupa, 351. and 352. eskadrila. Also 67. grupa with staff, 213. and 214. eskadrila, reformed from 202. grupa, 353. and 354. eskadrila. On the Zagreb was formed 68.grupa with staff, 215. and 216. eskadrila, reformed from 263. grupa, staff, 430 and 431. eskadrila; 69. grupa with staff, 217. and 218. eskadrila, reformed from 264. grupa with staff, 432. and 433. eskadrila. Independent 81. grupa with staff, 261. and 262. eskadrila was formed on Beograd airfield from 261. grupa, 426. and 427. eskadrila. Staff of 1. puk in Novi Sad and staff of 3. puk in Skoplje became bomber units and received bomber planes. In the beginning of 1939 on airfield Skoplje was disbanded staff of 35. grupa and its escadrille were provided into 63. grupa [207. eskadrila] and 64. grupa [210. eskadrila]. New staff of 8. regiment was formed in spring 1939. on airfield Zagreb and deployed 68. and 69. grupa from 4. regiment. There was plans to form 65. dive bomber group on Skoplje airfield with 243. and 244. eskadrila but as well plane’s for the was not available that idea was temporary canceled.

Jedinica-u-SkopljuThe most problematical branch of military aviation was reconnaissance aviation. In the development of Yugoslav reconnaissance units could be noted the number of units were raised in the period from 1924 to 1937 and after that units was in decrease.

First recce units, actually mixed fighters-recce units, was formed in the early 1919 on airfields Novi Sad, Sarajevo, Skoplje and Zagreb when was established four escadrille 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th. By the end of 1920 these units become escadrille of army districts and got Roman digits from 1 to 4. Changes were made in the beginning of 1924 when these units was turned back into the structure of aviation and got their old type of digits. Also there were formed staff of 1. recce group, on Novi Sad airfield and employ 1. escadrille. More units were formed in November 1924- staff of 3. recce group in Skoplje, which employ 3. escadrille, staff of 4. recce group in Sarajevo, which employ 2. escadrille, 6. recce escadrille was deployed in 1. group in Novi Sad. In Sarajevo 7. recce escadrille deployed in 4. recce group. During 1926 on Sarajevo airfield was formed 11th and 12th recce escadrille.

Mostar-HanriotSpring 1927 bring many new units- staff of 2. regiment [puk] in Sarajevo; staff of 2. grupa [renamed from staff of 4th group] which deployed 2nd and 61st escadrille [renamed from 7th escadrille] on Sarajevo airfield; staff of 101. grupa on Sarajevo which deployed 11th and 12th escadrille; staff of 4th grupa on Zagreb airfield which deployed 4th and new 81st escadrille; 6th escadrille on Novi Sad was renamed into 51. escadrille and enter in 1. grupa.

Next year, in the spring 1928 on Skoplje airfield was formed 71st recce escadrille which was deployed into the 3. grupa. On the same airfield, during 1932 was formed 5th and 91st recce escadrille which entered in structure of 3rd and 231st group. In the beginning of 1932 on Sarajevo airfield was formed 14th and 15th recce escadrille which entered in structure of 2nd and 101st grupa. New units were established in the beginning of 1937- staff of 5th group on Skoplje which employed 5th and 91st escadrille; staff of 7th group on Sarajevo which employed 14th and 15th escadrille. Also on Sarajevo airfield was established staff of 6th group reformed from 101st and employ 11th and 12th escadrille.

Reconnaissance aviation had many of changes during the reorganization which begun in the beginning of 1938. Eight recce escadrille were disbanded and transformed into bomber or fighter units. First group with staff, 1st and 51st escadrille was transformed into 61st bomber group on Novi Sad airfield. Third group on Skoplje airfield , with staff 3rd and 71st escadrille was reformed into 63rd bombers group. Fifth group on Skoplje with staff, 5th and 91st escadrille reformed into 35th group. In the Zagreb, fourth group with staff, 4th and 81st escadrille was reformed into 33rd fighter group.

Puk u Skoplju grupa letacaOn Sarajevo airfield following units from 2. puk was renamed- 2nd group with staff, 2nd and 61st escadrille into 2nd group with staff, 2nd and 4th escadrille. Sixth group with staff, 11th and 12th escadrille renamed into 1st group with staff, 1st and 3rd escadrille and 7th group with staff, 14th and 15th escadrille renamed into 3rd group with staff, 5th and 6th escadrille.

In the spring of 1938 on Nis airfield was formed 1st autogiro group [with staff, 1st and 2nd escadrille] from the staff of 1st balloon battalion, 2nd and 3rd balloon company, till the 1st balloon company enter in structure of this group. A year later this unit was disbanded and from autogiro group was formed 21st recce group with staff, 41st, 42nd and 43rd escadrille.

Eleventh recce group was established on Beograd airfield in the beginning of 1940, with staff, 21st and 22nd escadrille. Later in the summer Sarajevo’s 2. puk were dislocated some units for close cooperation with infantry. Staff of 1st group and 2nd escadrille were on Novi Sad, staff of 2nd grupa and 4th escadrille was in Nis, staff of 3rd group with 5th and 6th escadrille stayed in Sarajevo, 2nd escadrille was rebased in Zagreb and 3rd escadrille was rebased to Skoplje.

In the beginning of 1941 was formed 7th recce escadrille within 3rd grupa in Sarajevo, on Zagreb airfield staff of 4th grupa employed 2nd escadrille, on Skoplje staff of 5th grupa employed 3rd escadrille. Disbanding of staff of 2nd recce regiment was done in March 1941 in Sarajevo and its groups 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th became tactically independent units and they were directed to the infantry army districts for land troops cooperation.

Srecko Bradic

Photos: Srecko Bradic

References- author personal research