Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Nebojša Stefanović, PhD, visited “Colonel Pilot Milenko Pavlović“ airport in Batajnica where members of the Ministry of Defence and the Serbian Armed Forces are testing the VRVZ-200 air-to-surface guided missile for Serbian Air Force Soko J-22 Orao “Eagle”. Serbian Minister of Defence are planning to continue the modernization of the “Eagle“ in the next two years. Serial production of this air-to-surface guided missile can begin in the coming period, hopefully in the next 12 months, and thanks to domestic institutes and know-how, it will be upgraded and used to equip Serbian armed forces. The new air-to-surface missile will be one of the key missiles for equipping the upgraded Soko J-22 Orao “Eagle” aircraft.
First flying during November 1974, the resulting aircraft would equip the air forces of both Romania and Yugoslavia, as well as several of Yugoslavia’s successor states. On 22 November 1984, the Orao became the first Yugoslav-designed aircraft to exceed Mach 1, albeit achieved while in a shallow dive. The J-22 Orao is a twin-engined combat jet aircraft designed for performing close air support (CAS), ground-attack and tactical reconnaissance missions, it also features a limited air-defense capability. The twin-seat version, the NJ-22, was primarily assigned for various training purposes, including the advanced flight and weapons training syllabuses, but could also be used for combat missions. The Orao was provisioned with standard communication and navigation equipment, the latter including a Honeywell-built SGP500 twin-gyroscope navigation system.
Various upgrade programmes for the J-22 had been proposed during the 1990s; reportedly, such efforts would have been focused upon the aircraft’s avionics. However, such ambitions were heavily undermined by the dismantling of the Mostar factory during the Yugoslav Wars and the collapse of Romania’s communist government. During the late 2010s, Serbia launched a major modernisation programme involving both its J-22 and NJ-22 fleets. Unofficially referred to as Orao 2.0, this work involved the installation of new navigation and targeting systems, including Safran’s Sigma 95 inertial navigation system, a mission computer and multi-function displays, into the NJ-22’s rear cockpit which, along with new weapons, is intended to make the type more effective in ground attack missions.
A more comprehensive second phase is to achieve the “complete digitalisation” of the aircraft’s cockpit. Since the two-seater version of the aircraft was designed as a trainer, the second place in the cockpit intended for the instructor is redone as a navigator-operator of weapons. At the second stage of modernization, the aircraft will receive a container with the equipment necessary to guide the new weaponsspecially designed for the upgraded version of the HJ-22. The armament of the aircraft will include: a VRVZ-200 guided missile with television and inertial guidance with a range of more than 40 kilometers. It also provides for the installation of new guided missiles VRVZ-200, M-16D and laser-guided aerial bombs LVB-250 – all of Serbian production.