|Quoting PIEAvantiP180 (Reply 40):|
I do remember seeing all the cessna 172 being painted in camo colors that were based on a small grass strip near my aunts house. Even back then i knew they had no military value as weapons and were newer used as such.
Actually - at least in Croatia - they too were very active during the early stages of the war. When it had all started back in 1991, a vast majority of military equipment was located in Serbia, Montenegro and - in the case of the Željava military airbase near Bihać - Bosnia. The newly-formed ground forces in Slovenia and Croatia had, at best, an occasional APC
, most being stuck with some light anti-tank weapons and standard issue rifles and small arms; the air forces didn't even exist on paper, while the navy was similarly under-equipped. To deviate a bit from aviation history, this lack of armaments had started the so called "Battle of the Barracks", a series of small offensives by Croatian ground forces on JNA-held weapons depots across the country, aimed at capturing some heavier weaponry.
The nascent Croatian AF
however had no such option, so it was felt that the only alternative - especially in the face of the UN arms embargo - was to press into service pretty much anything that could fly. To this end, a number of GA
aircraft were converted to fly limited combat missions, including similar camo Skyhawks to the ones you saw
. These F-172 Fighting Skyhawks (
) were armed with hand grenades and other explosive devices dropped from the cockpit, and generally flew light harassment and reconnaissance missions.
Other modifications had also included UTVA-75 trainers with two or four "Zolja" shoulder-fired anti-tank rocket launchers mounted under the wings (I used to have a period magazine with excellent photos of these aircraft, but for the life of me I cannot find it now), as well as Cessna 188, Dromader and Air Tractor "strike aircraft". These would be fitted with old MiG gunsights and had specially crafted pylons bolted to the wings able to carry light makeshift bombs. In a well known story here, which if anything proves how tough cropdusters really are, the team doing these conversions had managed to drill through an AT
-302's wing spar, not noticing until after the work was completed
Still more creative were the An-2 bombers, universally known locally as the "boiler bombers". These would be loaded up with so called "boiler bombs", which were actually gas cylinders and hot water boilers filled with high explosives and anything that could act as shrapnel - actual shrapnel, razors and even knives and forks on occasion. These bombs would then be dropped out of open doors by the crews, usually at night and at low level. These aircraft had operated exclusively during the Siege of Vukovar, when their low speed made them virtually immune to interception - indeed, they had even ended up below the detection threshold of the SA
-6 SAM batteries deployed around the city. The JNA eventually had to modify the radars to lower their detection threshold; this was the first real threat faced by the An-2s, and after one was destroyed by an SA
-6, most missions had stopped (of interest, one of the original boiler bombers is still flying today as 9A-BFT).
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Photo © Boran Pivcic - CroSpotterTeam
Yet another role for the An-2s was as what was, half-jokingly, called the "AnWACS": in essence, this was an An-2 modified with various sensors and used as a sort of SIGINT/ELINT/command post/you name it platform. It is still unclear what they actually did and what equipment was fitted; they were - understandably - kept under close watch, and I believe that most of the information regarding their operations is still secretive.
|One of apparently several An-2s modified for the electronic role in the nascent Croatian AF. Other versions - possibly the same aircraft - also had a large dorsal antenna.|
Another veteran of the early days of the war is an Agusta-Bell AB
-47J helicopter, the first rotary wing aircraft in service with the CroAF
. This one was taken out of Zagreb's Technical Museum, returned to airworthy status and had spent a brief time flying medevac missions until Croatian ground forces captured an old Mi-8T, still known today as "Stara frajla", or "old lady". Being old and not blessed with much carrying capacity, the AB
-47 was soon returned back to the museum, where it still stands today
All of these modifications had bore the brunt of the (at the time limited) air combat missions until the arrival of the MiG-21, Mi-8 and Mi-24 (some of the latter were also modified extensively, one being turned into a medevac model, while another reworked to carry torpedoes).
EDIT: here's another shot I've found of one of the CroAF's camo Skyhawks...
|Cessna 172, formerly YU-DMA, pictured at Split in the early 90s. Today still flying with AK Split as 9A-DMA|
[Edited 2011-02-22 00:49:42]