25 March 1958|
|Died||2 May 1995
Stara Gradiška, Croatia
|Burial place||Mirogoj Cemetery|
|Allegiance|| Yugoslavia (1981–1991)
|Service/branch|| Yugoslav Air Force
Croatian Air force
|Years of service||1981–1995|
|Rank||Staff Brigadier (Brigadier General posthumously)|
|Unit||21st Fighter Squadron|
Rudolf Perešin[pronunciation?] (25 March 1958 – 2 May 1995) was a Croatian fighter pilot serving in the Yugoslav Air Force (JRZ) during the 1991–95 Croatian War of Independence who defected to the Croatian side in October 1991, by flying his MiG-21 fighter jet from Željava Air Base to Klagenfurt, Austria, on a reconnaissance flight for the JRZ. He was the first pilot to desert from the Yugoslav Air Force. Following his defection he continued to fly missions for the Croatian Air Force and was shot down in May 1995 by Serb Krajina military forces, resulting in his death.
Perešin was born in the village of Jakšinec near Gornja Stubica, north of the Croatian capital Zagreb. He enrolled at the Yugoslav Military Pilot Academy in Zadar, and graduated in 1981 at the top of his class as one of the best fighter pilots of the Yugoslav Air Force.
In 1991, during the early stages of the war, Perešin decided to defect in order to help defend his homeland. Like all Croatian-born personnel, he was under close surveillance by his commanding officers. On 25 October 1991 Perešin flew his MiG-21R from the Željava Air Base and landed in Klagenfurt, Austria. 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.
On 2 May 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 Serb Krajina forces. His remains were not recovered and returned until 4 August 1997. On 15 September 1997 Perešin was buried with full military honors at the Mirogoj cemetery in Zagreb.
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. It was publicly displayed at Zeltweg Air Base during the AirPower11 national air show in 2011. As of 2015[update], the aircraft is still an object of an international ownership dispute, with competing claims from Croatia and Serbia.
Today, the Croatian Air Force Flying School in Zadar and the Aeronautical Technical High School in Velika Gorica are both named in his honor.
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (July 2012) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
- "Obilježena 17. obljetnica pogibije stožernog brigadira Rudolfa Perešina". morh.hr (in Croatian). Croatian Ministry of Defense. 2 May 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- "Austrijanci se hvale avionom Rudolfa Perešina". tportal.hr (in Croatian). Hrvatski Telekom. 2 July 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- (Croatian) Gradska groblja Zagreb: Rudolf Perešin, Mirogoj RKT-111D-I-45
- "Legendarni avion Rudolfa Perešina Austrija ne želi vratiti". tportal.hr (in Croatian). Hrvatski Telekom. 19 January 2009. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- "Telegram doznaje: legendarni MiG-21 Rudolfa Perešina vraća se u Hrvatsku". telegram.hr (in Croatian). 21 April 2015. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
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