Rudolf Perešin

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Rudolf Perešin
Born (1958-03-25)March 25, 1958[1]
Jakšinec, Yugoslavia[1]
Died May 2, 1995(1995-05-02) (aged 37)
Stara Gradiška, Croatia
Burial place Mirogoj Cemetery
Allegiance Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Yugoslavia (1981–1991)
Croatia Croatia (1991–1995)
Service/branch Jrvpvo.gif Yugoslav Air Force
Hrz.jpg Croatian Air force
Years of service 1981–1995
Rank Staff Brigadier (Brigadier General posthumously)
Unit 21st Fighter Squadron

Croatian War of Independence


Rudolf Perešin (March 25, 1958 – May 2, 1995) was a Croatian fighter pilot in the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) who defected from Željava Air Base to Klagenfurt, Austria in 1991, during a reconnaissance flight because he wanted to help his homeland Croatia during the Croatian War of Independence. He was the first pilot to desert from the JNA. He was shot down in 1995 by Serbian Krajina military forces resulting in his death.


Perešin was born in the village of Jakšinec, Gornja Stubica near the Croatian capital of Zagreb. He entered Military Pilot Academy in Zadar, Croatia. He graduated in 1981 with outstanding scores at the top of his class as one of the best fighter pilots of the JNA.

In 1991 during the early stages of the war Perešin decided to defect and help defend his homeland. Like all Croatian-born personnel, he was under close surveillance by his commanding officers. On October 25, 1991 Perešin flew his MiG-21R from the Željava Air Base and landed in Klagenfurt, Austria.[2] His defection as well as his statement that he is a "Croat and I cannot and will not fire upon my Croatia" proved to be a significant moral boost for the Croatian forces.

Rudolf Perešin memorial in Gornja Stubica

On May 2, 1995 while providing close air support to the Croatian Army during Operation Flash he was shot down over Stara Gradiška by anti-aircraft artillery from the military of Serbian Krajina. Perešin remains were not returned until August 4, 1997. On September 15, 1997 Perešin was buried with full military honors in the Mirogoj cemetery, Zagreb.[1][3]

The MiG-21 aircraft number 26112 he used to defect was transported to the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (military history museum) in Vienna and briefly shown to the public there.[2] It was publicly displayed in Zeltweg Air Base during the AirPower11 national air show in 2011.[2] As of 2011, the aircraft is still an object of an international ownership dispute, with competing claims from Croatia and Serbia.[2][4]

Today, the Croatian Air Force Flight School in Zadar and Aeronautical Technical High School in Velika Gorica are both named in his honor.


  1. ^ a b c "Obilježena 17. obljetnica pogibije stožernog brigadira Rudolfa Perešina". (in Croatian). Croatian Ministry of Defense. May 2, 2012. Retrieved October 6, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Austrijanci se hvale avionom Rudolfa Perešina". (in Croatian). Hrvatski Telekom. July 2, 2011. Retrieved October 6, 2012. 
  3. ^ (Croatian) Gradska groblja Zagreb: Rudolf Perešin, Mirogoj RKT-111D-I-45
  4. ^ "Legendarni avion Rudolfa Perešina Austrija ne želi vratiti". (in Croatian). Hrvatski Telekom. January 19, 2009. Retrieved October 6, 2012. 

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