River Flotilla
Речна Флотила
RFVSAmblem.png
The River Flotilla's emblem
FoundedAugust 6, 1915[1]
CountrySerbia Serbia
BranchKov vs.gif Serbian Army
TypeBrown-water navy
RoleControl of inland waterways
SizeApprox 500 personnel
16 ships and boats
Part of Serbian Armed Forces
Headquarters"Aleksandar Berić" barracks, Novi Sad, Serbia
PatronSaint Sava
AnniversariesAugust 6
EngagementsFirst Balkan War
Second Balkan War
World War I
World War II
Yugoslav Wars
NATO bombing of Yugoslavia
Commanders
River Flotilla CommanderCaptain (N) Andrija Andrić
Insignia
FlagFlag of the Serbian River Flotilla.png
Naval ensignNaval Ensign of Serbia.svg

The Serbian River Flotilla (Serbian: Речна Флотила / Rečna flotila) is a tactical brigade-level brown water naval branch of the Serbian Armed Forces headquartered in Novi Sad, with additional units based in Belgrade, and Šabac. Subordinate to the Serbian Land Forces since 2006, the River Flotilla is tasked with range of missions within the Republic of Serbia that include environmental policing, counter-terrorism, and border security along 406 kilometers of Serbia's international borders and 1565.9 kilometers of Serbia's waterways.[2]

History

The modern Serbian River Flotilla pulls it origins from Serbian Šajkaši river troops that guarded the Danube and Sava rivers, and especially, the Port of Belgrade, against Ottoman Empire river fleets from the 16th to the 19th century. Led by Hungarian or Austrian sponsors against the Ottomans, šajkaš troops were ethnic Serbs, who enjoyed special military status. Their name Šajkaš was derived from the small wooden boat known as chaika (Šajka, tschaiken), a type of galley operated by sail or oars manned by 30 and 50 men, commanded by an officer, a helmsman, an armourer, a drummer, two bowman, and up to 36 oarsmen. The modern day traditional Serbian šajkača hat is believed to be derived from the 18th-century Banat based Frontier Šajkaši Battalion uniform.[3]

The Šajkaški played a decisive role in helping Serbia become an independent constitutional monarchy and lay the ground for the creation of modern Serbia.[4] After the declaration of the war against Turkey in 1876, the Principality of Serbia River Flotilla deployed naval mines on the Danube River, thought to be the first use of naval mines in Europe.[4]

With breakup of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Yugoslav People's Army became the Armed Forces of Serbia and Montenegro in 1992. During this transition the River Flotilla remained as part of Navy. During the 1990s, one new Neštin class river minesweeper was introduced in 1996, and two 601-class landing craft were transferred from sea service at Montenegro to the River Flotilla after being overhauled at "Brodotehnika" shipyard in Belgrade.

Command structure

With the reorganization of the Serbian Armed Forces after the split with Montenegro in 2006, the River Flotilla was subordinated to the Serbian Land Forces as the new landlocked Serbian military no longer possessed naval branch. In addition to regular standing forces, the river flotilla employs reserve Pontoon Battalions consisting of personnel with previous military service in Yugoslav pontoon units.[5][6]

  • RFVSAmblem.png River Flotilla Command – Novi Sad at "Aleksandar Berić" barracks
    • Command Company – Novi Sad at "Aleksandar Berić" barracks
    • 1st River Detachment – Novi Sad at "Aleksandar Berić" barracks
      • 93rd Diving Company - Novi Sad at "Aleksandar Berić" barracks[7]
    • 2nd River Detachment – Belgrade
    • 1st Pontoon Battalion – Šabac at "Cerski junaci” barracks
    • 2nd Pontoon Battalion – Novi Sad at "Aleksandar Berić" barracks
    • Logistic Company – Novi Sad at "Aleksandar Berić" barracks

Operations

Operational art and tactical doctrine

Doctrine and operating procedures of the flotilla remain the same as those of the former Danube Flotilla of the Royal Yugoslav Navy, dating back to the 1920s.

Role and deployment

The primary tasks of the River Flotilla are:[8]

  • building and maintaining operational capabilities for carrying out tasks of all three missions of the Serbian Armed Forces,
  • operationalization and training of command and subordinate units for carrying out dedicated tasks,
  • control of inland waterways and provision of maneuvers to the units of the Serbian land forces on and to rivers, channels and lakes, and
  • search and rescue on rivers, canals and lakes.

Domestic Operations

Annually, between 15 June to 1 September, the 1st Pontoon battalion deploys a 362 meters long bridge linking the Zemun quay and Great War Island in a provision of engineering services agreement between the municipality of Zemun and the Serbian Army.[9][10][11][12] In 2017, members of the 1st Pontoon battalion were awarded medallions by the Serbian Ministry of Defence for rescuing an elderly man from a burning boat. The members reportedly swam to the distressed man and pulled him to the river bank where a doctor from the River Flotilla provided first aid.[13][14]

The River Flotilla regularly provides security and technical support to the Memorial Regatta "Zoran Radosavljevic" in the memory of the late pilot and avid yachtsman Major Zoran Radosavljevic, a member of the 127th fighter squadron “Knights” of the Yugoslav Air Force, who died during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia on 27 March 1999. The Memorial Yacht Regatta “Zoran Radosavljevic” was first held in Montenegro in 1999, and since May 2007 it has been organized in Belgrade, Serbia[15][16]

During the 2014 floods in Serbia, members of the 1st Pontoon Battalion help fight flood in Šabac and Loznica while amphibious vehicles and River Flotilla divers evacuated 2,072 people from Obrenovac[17] Members of the Riverine Flotilla throughout Serbia to combat flooding in Koceljeva, Šabac, Lazarevac, Lajkovac, Lučani and Loznica, mainly in the evacuation of citizens and the reinforcement of bulwarks.[18]

A member of the Serbian River Flotilla deployed on EU Maritime Forces in Somalia (EUNAVFOR Somalia) (2011)

International Operations

Since October 2011, personnel from the River Flotilla have deployed to Operation Atalanta, an ongoing European Union (EU) multinational counter-piracy operation off the Horn of Africa and in the Western Indian Ocean. Deploying as the Serbian Autonomous Vessel Protection Detachment (AVPD), where River Flotilla and Serbian Special Brigade personnel are directly stationed on World Food Programme (WFP) ships in need of protection.[19]

Training and exercises

Members of the river flotilla are educated and trained at the Serbian Military Academy Nautical Department which offers courses in Serbian and English for domestic and international military and civilian students. Boat crews are trained to operate vessels for day and night operations in accordance with national standards and International Maritime Organization safety standards. The river flotilla primarily conducts training for boat safety, navigation, night vision, communications, operator maintenance, high‐speed maneuvering, handling weapons (including crew‐served weapons) and other individual and collective skills unique to riverine craft operating in a riverine environment.[20]

The River Flotilla regularly conducts live-fire and manoeuvre exercises with both domestic and international military, public safety and riverine forces including, Croatia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania. Exercises generally involve anti-terrorism and disaster relief scenarios and often include live firing against land and water targets.[21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28]

Iron Cat series of exercises

Serbian River Flotilla on the river Danube, Novi Sad, Republic of Serbia

Since 2011, the Serbian River Flotilla and the Hungarian Danube Flotilla, officially known as the 1st Honvéd Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Warship Regiment, have jointly conducted the week-long exercise series dubbed "Iron Cat", alternating locations every year. The aim of the exercise series is to enhance bilateral cooperation and improve the application of tactics, techniques and procedures of both river units while building mutual trust. Both the Serbians and the Hungarians operate the Yugoslav-made Nestin-class river minesweepers.

"Iron Cat 2019" - held in Serbia at the Titel training ground and focused on the protection of river traffic, including mine detection, deactivating and destroying underwater mines, anti-ship actions and anti-terrorism actions.[29][30]

"Iron Cat 2018" - held between Budapest and Mohács, Hungary included training in explosive ordnance disposal, river policing, border surveillance and border control, patrol activities, arresting and occupying hostile vessels, escorting and protecting dignitaries and cargo, and river closures. Serbian and Hungarian vessels also conducted live-fire training against air and water targets.[31][32]

"Iron Cat 2017" - held near Banoštor, Serbia included training in the blockade and control of inland waterways due to migratory and terrorist threats in the region.[33][34]

"Iron Cat 2016" - held in Budapest, Hungary included training in protection of cargo ships from attack, securing and blockade of the river.[35][36]

"Iron Cat 2015" - tactical live fire exercise held at the Serbian artillery training ground "Titel" on the Tisa River.[37][38]

"Iron Cat 2014" - tactical live fire exercise held at the Hungarian Defence Forces Várpalota range in Hungary included joint minesweeping activities.[39]

"Iron Cat 2013" - tactical live fire exercise at the Serbian artillery training ground "Titel" on the Tisa River.[40]

"Iron Cat 2012" - tactical live fire exercise at the Hungarian Defence Forces Várpalota range included shooting ground-based targets on the using the 20mm PAV-1 and PAV-4 autocannons.[37]

"Iron Cat 2011" - tactical life fire exercise at the Serbian artillery training ground "Titel" on the Tisa River in Serbia South Bačka District, Serbia.[37][38]


Serbian River Flotilla boats on military exercise at Titel, Vojvodina in 2018

Domestic exercises and operations

"Begej 2019" - Live Fire Tactical Training (LFTT) exercise held on the Tisa River at the Titel training ground including river and special assault, ship fire support, establishment of a bridge crossing point, as well as aircraft strikes.[41]

"Blue Route 2019" - Live Fire Tactical Training (LFTT) exercise held on the Tisa River at the Titel training ground conducting a twenty-four-hour check of readiness of the Quick Reaction Naval Combat Group composed of a command ship and three ships of different types.[42]

"Century of Victory 1918-2018" - joint River Flotilla and the Special Brigade exercise in commemoration of the end of the First World War. The exercise involved the display of anti-sabotage effects of submersible divers, the action of a group of ships and patrol boats, amphibious and multi-purpose ships in the firing of combat.[43]

"Otter 2018" - Live Fire Tactical Training (LFTT) exercise held at Taraš near Zrenjanin training Serbian River Flotilla command and units and pontoon battalions in the conduct of river assaults, defending waterways and forced river crossings.[44]

“Ečka 2017” - anti-terrorist and anti-mining exercise of the 1st River Squadron and 93rd Diving Company at the "Titel" training ground on the Tisa River.[45]

International Army Games in Russia 2016 - 86 members of 1st and 2nd Pontoon Brigades and 93rd Diving Company and won third place at Russian International Army Games during the "Open water" competition held in Murom, on the Oka River.[46][47]

"Blue Dolphin 2016" - Live Fire Tactical Training (LFTT) exercise at the Taraš training ground on the Tisa River near Zrenjanin as part of "Morava 2016" command-post exercise.[48][49]

"Blue Response 2014" - tactical live shooting exercise at the Serbian artillery training ground "Titel" on the Tisa River included artillery and close air support training in support of a forced river crossing.[50]

Serbia Floods 2014 - Members of the 1st Pontoon Battalion help fight flood in Šabac and Loznica while amphibious vehicles and River Flotilla divers evacuated 2,072 people from Obrenovac[17] Members of the Riverine Flotilla throughout Serbia to combat flooding in Koceljeva, Sabac, Lazarevac, Lajkovac, Lucani and Loznica, mainly in the evacuation of citizens and the reinforcement of bulwarks.[18]

June 2012 - Members of 1st and 2nd River Flotilla regiment conducted tactical exercises using live artillery firing from the ship's weapons at artillery training area "Titel".[51]

February 2012 - Members of the First Pontoon Battalion were engaged in clearing snow in Mali Zvornik municipality after heavy snowfalls.[52]

February 2012 - Professional member of the River Flotilla from Novi Sad, Branislav Jankovic, won the fourteenth swimming competition for St John’s Cross in Ada Ciganlija in Belgrade.[53]

"Tisa 2012" - three-day trilateral exercise including Serbia, Romania and Hungary held at "Mačvanski Partisan Detachment" training area near Šabac, Serbia included training in assisting civilian populations affected by the floods caused by the outflow of the Sava river.[54]

External video
Tactical Combat Shooting Exercise "VIDRA 2018", Serbian Ministry of Defence YouTube video
Exercise "Century of Victory 1918-2018" - Titel, Serbia, Serbian Ministry of Defence YouTube video

Logistics

While largely self-sustaining, in terms of vessel-specific spares, the river flotilla relies on the Serbian Armed Forces logistics and infrastructure for general support. For a number of years the Serbian Armed Forces announced plans for building a winter home base for the River Flotilla at Majurska Ada near Novi Sad. Although successive governments have discussed and announced plans, this base for the Serbian River Flotilla was never realized.[55][56]

Personnel

The River Flotilla is an all-volunteer, professional and skilled force that has a small number of available spaces for new recruits and tends to accept just a few personnel every year from other Serbian Land Forces elements. Like the rest of the SAF, the flotilla has generally high morale fuelled by strong patriotism and serving in the flotilla is considered advantageous compared with other SAF branches, due to its relaxed terms and proximity to Novi Sad and Belgrade.[57]

Rank structure

Commissioned officers

Rank insignia for commissioned officers of the Serbian River Flotilla.

Equivalent
NATO code
OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) and student officer
Serbia Serbia
(Edit)
No equivalent 18-Serbian Navy-ADM.svg 17-Serbian Navy-VADM.svg 16-Serbian Navy-RADM.svg 15-Serbian Navy-CDRE.svg 14-Serbian Navy-CAPT.svg 13-Serbian Navy-CDR.svg 12-Serbian Navy-LCDR.svg 11-Serbian Navy-LT.svg 10-Serbian Navy-LTJG.svg 09-Serbian Navy-ENS.svg Unknown
Admiral
Адмирал
Vice admiral
Вице Адмирал
Counter admiral
Контра Адмирал
Commodore
Комодор
Captain
Капетан Бојног Брода
Commander
Капетан Фрегате
Lieutenant commander
Капетан Корвете
Lieutenant
Поручник Фрегате
Lieutenant junior grade
Поручник Корвете
Ensign
Потпоручник

Enlisted

Rank insignia for enlisted personnel of the Serbian River Flotilla.

Equivalent
NATO code
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
Serbia Serbia
(Edit)
08-Serbian Navy-WO1.svg 07-Serbian Navy-WO2.svg 06-Serbian Navy-SSFC.svg 05-Serbian Navy-SSG.svg 04-Serbian Navy-SGT.svg 03-Serbian Navy-JSG.svg 02-Serbian Navy-CPL.svg 01-Serbian Navy-PVT.svg No insignia
Ensign, 1st class
(Заставник I класе)
Ensign
(Заставник)
Senior chief petty officer
(Старији Водник I класе)
Chief petty officer
(Старији Водник)
Petty officer
(Водник)
Master seaman
(Млађи водник)
Leading seaman
(Десетар)
Able seaman
(Разводник)
Seaman recruit
(Војник)

Traditions

The Serbian Army observes August 6 as the Day of the River Flotilla to commemorate the launch of the first Serbian warship Jadar in 1915 on the Sava River near Čukarica.[58][59]

Core assets and procurement initiatives

The River Flotilla's core assets mostly date from the 1970s, but have been well maintained and are subject to periodic modest upgrades. Most of the flotilla's vessels are considered to be adequate to the tasks required of them for at least another decade. Five Nestin-class river minesweepers constitute the core of the River Flotilla. The sturdy, flexible vessels are expected to be in service with the River Flotilla until 2028. Similarly, five Type 22 landing craft and three Type 20 patrol are useful and easily maintained and are expected remain in service for some time. To supplement these vessels, the flotilla has procured a number of small civilian craft, including one Premax 39 multirole fast combat boat built in Serbia by Serbian defence contractor Yugoimport SPDR. Of the flotilla's core vessels, several are routinely out of service for maintenance at any one time, while a single patrol vessel dating from the 1950s, likely RPB-111 Jadar, is laid up awaiting disposal.[57]

In October 2013, a four-year general overhaul and modification of the flotilla's headquarters ship, BPN-30 "Kozara”, was completed at Apatin shipyard with the addition of new diesel-electric propulsion, giving the River Flotilla functional capabilities of a hospital ship and navigation and shipping training ship for Serbian cadets attending the Serbian Military Academy.[60] In July 2017, the "Kozara" sailed from Novi Sad to Hungary in the first international voyage of a Serbian military ship since 1915.[61][62] In 2017, China donated 24 RIB-720 boats equipped with 150 hp Yamaha outboard motors to Serbia to help with flood relief activities. 10 boats were allocated to the River Flotilla by the Serbian Government.[63][64]

Equipment in service

Surface Fleet

Current Surface Fleet
Ships Origin Class Type Ships in service Notes
BPN-30 Kozara Headquarters Ship
 Austria BPN-30 Kozara Special purpose ship

Command ship

RPB-30 Kozara BPN-30 Kozara headquarters ship (PBR)

(Serbian: БПН - Брод посебне намене - BPN - Brod posebne namene)


Built for the German Navy in Linz in 1939 the "Kozara" has spent her life on the Danube River. From 1945-46 the ship was used to house American soldiers at the Bavarian city of Regensburg and was sold in 1948, where she was used as a hotel-restaurant until 1953. The vessel was subsequently procured for the Yugoslavian River Flotilla in 1960 and since 1971 Kozara has been the command vessel of the River Flotilla. In 2013 Kozara was overhauled and modernized. She is capable of transporting 250 troops and is armed with 20 mm Oerlikon/Hispano Suiza.

RML-336 "Đerdap" on the Danube at Novi Sad
 Yugoslavia Neštin-class River minesweeper (MSR) RML-332 Titel (ex-Motajica)

RML-335 Apatin (ex-Vučedol)

RML-336 Smederevo (ex-Đerdap)

RML-341 Novi Sad

Neštin-class river minesweeper

(Serbian: РМЛ - Речни миноловац - RML - Recni minolovac)


Built at Brodotehnika Shipyard, Belgrade under development code S-25 / B-47 and introduced from 1975 to 1979 for the needs of the Yugoslav Navy on the Danube river, it was also sold to Hungary and Iraq. Built specifically for naval mine clearing duties on rivers the class is capable of transporting 100 troops, 24 mines, and is armed with 4 x MTU-4 S Strela 2M (Grail) surface-to-air missile and 20 mm Oerlikon/Hispano Suiza light calibre anti-aircraft gun.


RML-331 Neštin (decommissioned)

RPČ-214 river patrol boat on the Danube at Novi Sad
 Yugoslavia Type 20 Biscaya class River patrol craft (PBR) RPČ-213 Kolubara

RPČ-214 Morava

RPČ-216 Timok

Type 20 Biscaya-class river patrol craft (PBR)

(Serbian: РПБ - Речни патролни брод - RPB - Recni patrolni brod)


RPČ-213 was built at Josip Broz Shipyard, Belgrade and RPČ-214 and 216 at Brodotehnika Shipyard, Belgrade, in 1980. The class has a steel hull with a fibreglass superstructure. It is capable of carrying 30 troops and is armed with twin M71 20 mm light calibre anti-aircraft guns.

RSRB-36 "Šabac" anchored at Šabac city beach
 Yugoslavia RSRB-36 Šabac Degaussing vessel (YDG) RSRB-36 Šabac PRB-36 Šabac degaussing vessel (YDG)

(Serbian: ПРБ - Помоћни речни брод - PRB - Pomoćni rečni brod)

Built at Brodotehnika Shipyard, Belgrade in 1984 under development code RSRB (Rečna stanica za razmagnetisanje brodova) or Vessel Degaussing River Station. Used to degauss river vessels up to a length of 50 m. Capable of transporting 80 troops and is armed with 20 mm Oerlikon/Hispano Suiza light calibre anti-aircraft gun and 4 x MTU-4 S Strela 2M (Grail) surface-to-air missile.

DJČ-411 assault boat on the Danube at Novi Sad
 Yugoslavia Type 22 441-class Landing craft (LCU) DB-411 Bečej (ex-DJČ-632)

DB-412 Belgiš (ex-DJČ-625)

DB-413 Taraš (ex-DJČ-630)

DB-414 Begeč (ex-DJČ-631)

DB-415 Šajkaš (ex-DJČ-631)


Type 22 441-class landing craft (LCU)

(Serbian: ДБ - Десантни брод - DB - Desantni brod - Formerly ДЈЧ - Десантни јуришни чамац - DJČ - Desantni jurišni čamac)


Built at Greben Vela Luka Shipyard, the class is capable of transporting 80 troops or 6 tonnes of cargo. The last vessel was completed in 1987. Due to an increased requirement for inland waterway transport, a detachment of assault boats were moved from the Adriatic Coast "Brodotehnika" in Belgrade for complete overhaul before commencing service in the river fleet in 1995. An unknown number of landing craft is believed to have undergone a refit in 2009. The Type 22 is armed with twin M71 20 mm light calibre anti-aircraft guns and 1 x 30mm grenade launcher.

 Yugoslavia RPN-43 Tanker (ship) RPN-43
 Yugoslavia No class River patrol boat (PBR) ČMP-22

ČMP-23

ČMP-24

River patrol boat (PBR)

(Serbian: ЧМП - Чамац моторни патролни - ČMP - Čamac motorni patrolni )


Built in 1979 at Greben Vela Luka Shipyard. Transferred from the Serbian border security service to the River Flotilla in 2006. The PBR is armed with .50 cal mounted on the bow.

 Serbia Premax 39 Multirole fast combat boat 1 Premax 39 Multirole Fast Combat Boat

(Serbian: Вишенаменски брзи борбени чамац)


The Premax 39 is a high-performance craft designed for a wide range of police and internal security activities.

 People's Republic of China RIB 720 Rigid hull inflatable boat 24 Donation from the People's Republic of China. Ten boats from the donation went to the 93rd Dive Company, and 14 were assigned to the Special Brigade.
Recently retired ships
Ships Origin Class Type Ships in previous service Notes
 Yugoslavia RPČ-111 Jadar River patrol craft (PBR) RPČ-111 Jadar[65] RPČ-111 Jadar river patrol craft (PBR)


RPČ-111 was built in 1956 for US Navy's Rhine River patrol and later transferred to the Yugoslav Navy.


Engineering Vehicles

Engineering vehicles
Vehicles Origin Name Type Quantity
Soviet-made tracked amphibious transport PTS-M of Serbian River Flotilla 1st Pontoon Battalion.
 Soviet Union PTS-M Amphibious transport vehicle 12
A FAP 2026 BSD/A truck alongside a PM M71 pontoon section and a M-68 bridging boat.
 Yugoslavia PM M71 Mobile pontoon bridge
RPP M68.jpg
 Serbia RPR M68 Bridging boat


Gallery

See also

References

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External links

  • Official website
  • 'Botica' class minesweeper RML-302 in 2005
  • Шајкашки батаљон - најава за филм (Šajkaši Bataljon - Film Trailer)