The uncommon planes and fascinating architecture of the Belgrade Aviation Museum

Yaks and MiGs and Mils, oh my. The many fascinating aircraft and unique building of the Belgrade Aviation Museum make it well worth a visit. Here's a full tour.

Geoffrey Morrison
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
Geoffrey Morrison
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Belgrade Aviation Museum

Just a short walk from the capital's airport, the Belgrade Aviation Museum is housed in a massively cool building designed by Bosnian architect Ivan Straus.

For the full story behind this tour, check out From Yaks to MiGs: The fascinating Belgrade Aviation Museum.

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In the round

The main floor of the museum. Above, a shot-down Predator drone.

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One of the several Yugoslav-designed aircraft on display at the museum. This was the prototype Soko J-22 Orao, a type of aircraft still in use by the Serbian and Bosnian air forces.

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Second floor

The second floor of the museum was mostly exhibits on the history of flight in Serbia and Yugoslavia.

Normally I like to keep the photos going in a fairly linear fashion, but the unique design of this museum affords better views of the main planes, so I'll be bouncing back and forth a bit when the shot demands it.

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Early days

This is a Yugoslavian Zmaj Fizir FN, used as a trainer before WWII. Even though it was largely made of wood, it was used well into the '50s.

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The Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-2. Nearly every air museum has one of these. This one, however, is one of only two "G-2" variants left, and was used by the Yugoslav Air Force (YAF) until 1952.

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The Hawker Hurricane, but instead of being one of the famous heroes of the Battle of Britain, this one was flown by the YAF until 1952.

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Here's the Supermarine Spitfire, another staple of air museums. But yep, you guessed, this was also flown by the YAF.

Yep, you read that right: The YAF was flying Messerschmitts, Hurricanes, and Spitfires all at the same time.

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Hot rod

Small and light with a big engine, the Yak-3 was fast and maneuverable.

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This is the Ilyushin Il-2. Though it looks to be the same size as the previous fighters, this ground attack plane is a lot larger. This one was flown by the YAF until 1955.

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This was the M3 variant, which had a rear-firing gunner and swept-back wings.

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Along with aircraft from Britain, Germany and Russia, the Yugoslavs also had their own aircraft industry. This is an S-49C by the company Ikarus.

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Developed after WWII, the S-49C had a French-made V-12. They were in use until the early '60s.

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Another Yugoslav aircraft, the Soko 522, was a trainer and intended for light attack roles.

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The only surviving example of the Utva 213 Vihor, a Yugoslav trainer.

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Based on the F-80, this T-33 trainer was converted to a reconnaissance aircraft for use by the YAF.

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Here's a Republic F-84 "Thunderjet." These joined the YAF in the early '50s, replacing the WWII-era propeller aircraft. This one was later converted to a reconnaissance plane.

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Sabre Dog

A North American F-86D "Sabre Dog," which only shared some parts and pieces with the F-86 on which it was based. Like the F-84, this was one of the early jets flown by the YAF.

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No guns on the F-86D, just this retractable tray that shot 24 "Mighty Mouse" rockets.

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Sikorsky S-55

Though designed by Sikorsky (and called the H-19 by the USAF), this one and several others were built under licence by Soko in Yugoslavia.

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That will buff out

A near miss (or near hit) of a Stinger missile on the rear of a Soko G-4. The pilot landed safely.

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The tiny, tiny, appropriately named Folland Gnat. Though sold in great numbers to other countries (including India), only two test examples came to Yugoslavia. One crashed. The YAF decided they were too expensive to manufacture and passed on a larger order.

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The remains of a Predator drone, shot down during the Yugoslav wars in the '90s.

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The canopy of "Something Wicked," an F-117 shot down over Serbia.

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Certainly one of the stranger aircraft I've ever seen, this is an Ikarus 451, part of a family of research aircraft. The pilot was in the prone position. This gave me a stiff neck just thinking about it.

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A further development of the previous 451, this ditched the weird pilot orientation and added small turbojets.

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And a still further development, this is the 451MM, with more powerful engines, weapons, and a different landing-gear design. Intended to be the production version, only this prototype was built.

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A Yugoslav designed and built Soko J-20. Though a prop plane, it entered service in 1962 and flew until the '80s.

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Not a T-80

Though it looks like a T-80, this is actually a Soko G-2 "Galeb." This specific plane was in service for 20 years and had nearly 10,000 flights.

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A Sikorsky-designed, Westland-built WS-51 helicopter, used by the YAF until 1974.

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A MiG-21 used by the YAF from 1964 to 1981.

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That nose

This is the "F" variant. I love how so many jets of this era had massive air intakes in front. Gaping maws.

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This shot and the previous one give you a better sense of how incredible the building is.

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Lonely Yak

As if flying German and British planes wasn't enough, the YAF also flew Russian aircraft. This is the only complete original Yak-3 left in the world.

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This side of the grounds isn't the musuem's at all. It's storage for the Serbian Air Force.

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While the far side of the museum is Serbian Air Force storage, the area behind is for the museum.

This looks to me like a wood-frame, full-size mock-up of a MiG-29, does it not?

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This was unexpected. A Short Sealand, one of only three remaining in the world.

The Solent Sky museum has its big brother, the Sandringham.

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The MiG-21R "Fishbed." There wasn't any info with this one, but I believe it was one of the ones from the Yugoslav (and later Serbian) Air Force.

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Basement access

Part of the museum's basement is under the main entranceway. Wish I'd been able to explore more.

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A Mil Mi-4 "Hound" used by the YAF in the '60s but retired in 1977.

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Coaxial rotor helicopter! I've never seen one of these in person -- fascinating. Kamov is one of the only companies to make this type of helicopter in large numbers. The rotor hub needs be super-complex in order to ditch the tail rotor of "traditional" helicopters. This is a Ka-25.

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This JAT Airline Ju 52/3m was built in France, and after the BMW engines died, they got American Pratt and Whitney R 1340s.

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An Ilyushin Il-14, but not just any Il-14. This plane was presented to Yugoslav President Tito by Nikita Khrushchev after the two countries patched up relations following Stalin's death.

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The other Kamov, this time the export version of the later Ka-27, the 28PL.

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Mini torpedo

Small, but rocket powered!

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A look through dirt-caked windows at the cockpit of the Ka-28PL.

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Mil Mi-8

This Mi-8 served in the Yugoslav Air Force and flew itself here, landing at this spot to stay.

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Window washer

I'd thought the stairs and scaffolding was part of building, but when I looked closer I saw it was on rails. It's a window washer!

Also, a cameo by yours truely in the reflection.

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We end this tour with this well-worn C-47. There's a sad grace in the decay.

(It's another from my Instagram if you're curious).

For the full story behind this tour, check out From Yaks to Migs: The fascinating aircraft of the Belgrade Aviation Museum.

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