After losing over half of its territory, most of which was then incorporated into the Soviet Union (nowadays in Ukraine and the so-called "Republic of Moldova"), Romania continued to defy the Warsaw Pact and especially the Soviet Union, by establishing political, economical and military connections with Western countries, as well as by opposing Soviet international policy whenever necessary.
Romania was the only country in the Warsaw Pact that did not participate at the crushing of the Hungarian uprising in 1954.
Romania and Albania were the only Warsaw Pact members that did not participate in the crushing of "The Prague Spring" and the following invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1964. Albania got out of the Warsaw Pact the following year, leaving Romania to be the only country in that alliance that did not participate in the agressive Soviet crushing of any inside rebellion.
Furthermore, besides these facts and the cooperation with Western States (US President Richard Nixon's visit to Romania in 1962, etc), Romania wanted even more independence inside the alliance, especially towards the USSR.
Romania started to be view as "the France in NATO" of the Warsaw Pact countries, while Ceausescu was viewed as "the communist rebel" or even more, as "our communist friend" by the Americans. As such, more and more connections were established between Romania and the Western hemisphere, connections which were traditional, but crushed after World War II due to the Soviet invasion of Romania and the forced imposing of communism in the country that followed.
Romania, which already produced various types of weapons, reminding the famous aircraft and tanks of World War II, was not cut-off from producing pretty much anything by shameful pacts forcedly signed with the USSR. As such, Romania started the massive import of hundreds of MiG jet fighters, as well as Soviet tanks, armour and even warships. Romania could not produce a modern jet fighter either, because after World War II the entire industrial capability of Romania was packed and transported by train in Russia, as "war payment", besides the exorbitating prices in hard-currency and gold that Romania was already forced to pay to the USSR.
Therefore, after all its industry had been scrapped, more than 60 percent of the teritorry stolen, its international treaties sacked and the brutal imposal of communism, nobody ever expected Romania to produce a jet aircraft in the 1970's.
But Ceausescu, advised by his councelors, as well as moved by his own hatrid toward the Soviets, was already turned in establishing a new and independent Romanian military industry, that will produce anything from hand-gloves to space rockets. That industry would evolve to be one of the few such complex industries in the world, and Romania would turn out to be the world's fifth largest weapons exporter by the mid 1980's, as well as have the largest commercial shipping fleet, and other such successes.
So, the Romanian aviation industry, now dismantled and divised in the factories at Craiova, Bacau, Brasov and Bucharest, got the order to produce a jet ground attack aircraft. Finding out that the neighboring Yugoslavia pretty much had the same ambitions and desires, the Romanians offered the Yugoslavs a deal of cooperating in order to produce such an aircraft together.
And so the Yurom Program was developed. Yurom, coming from Yugoslavia-Romania (why Yurom, because Romyu would have sound incredibly weird), was a cooperation between Romania and Yugoslavia to produce a jet fighter due to Romania's wantings to defy the Soviet influence in the Balkans.
The aircraft, designed by both countries' engineers but tested and manufactured exclusively at nowadays Avioane SA factory in Craiova, was an incredible hit towards the USSR's dominance in the Eastern European area.
The Bolsheviks sure did had a surprize when instead of seeing Soviet origin MiG-21 interceptors opening the 1973 Air Show in Bucharest, they saw this pretty jet fighter they've never seen before. Asked what kind of plane is that, since it doesn't look like a MiG-21, the Romanian defence minister replied to the Soviet military delegation: Well that's our new IAR-93 !. No need to describe the size of the Soviet's eyeballs when they heard that.
Everybody's reply, especially the infuriated Soviet's, was that "but... Romania doesn't has the capacity to build such an advanced jet fighter !!"
...it didn't ! There were amazing difficulties in trying to build it, especially because all the project had to be, more or less, a secret. If the USSR would have found out about it, not only that it would have been stopped, but the two countries risked serious consequences as well.
Unfortunately, the Romanian IAR-93 aircraft were built in a low-tech fashion, mostly due to the incompetence of politically-assigned Communist Party officials that were conducting the operations from the shadows.
Namely, even though Romania still had an amazing range of specialists, engineers and aviation workers, the Communist authorities decided that it would be cheaper, as well as more "out of the public eye", if they would use agricultural workers in the manufacturing process, instead of aviation specialists! Furthermore, there was no need to bring them from anywhere far away, the Semanatoarea agricultural factory was right there in Craiova. The "Semanatoarea" factory, just as its name suggests (semanatoare = sowing-machine), produced agricultural sowing-machines (seeders) for the agricultural industry. No need to mention how those workers understood to make a plane. If the fuselage was not straight enough, as required, well, nothing a few hammer knocks can't fix....
I don't know how the planes for Yugoslavia were built, because I heard they sent their own specialists to assist the manufacturing process for their own units. Even though Yugoslavia had less aviation specialists and even though their engineers were way below our own, their final product ended to be perhaps better than the Romanian IAR-93 simply because they used their resources well, instead of using simple factory workers to make fuselage as well as other parts of the planes.
Added to this, there was the problem of the jet engine. Romania could not start the research and testing process for developing a new jet engine, because the Soviets would have found out about that in no-time. The R-13 engine of the MiG-21 was too big and hard to modify. So the choice was as weird as it was surprising...
To everybody's amazement, Romania turned towards... Great Britain, to ask for the acquiring of a jet engine license. Since at that time the UK had a policy not to sell licenses of jet engines which produced more than 2,000 kg of thrust to Eastern Bloc countries, the engine of choice was a 1950's-technology Rolls Royce Viper engine.
The Rolls Royce Viper engine, which uses a lot of fuel, a lot of oil, has no pollution controlling capabilities, makes a lot of noise, smoke, is un-reliable (it contributed to pretty much all the IAR-93 and J-22 crashes...), develops a thrust of only 17.5 kN, too small for such a plane.
However, being the only choice, it was authorized by both countries, and the Rolls Royce Viper engine was later used for equiping the new all-Romanian jet trainer and ground attack aircraft, the IAR-99.
IAR-93 production was stopped in 1991, after economic sanctions were imposed to Yugoslavia by the United Nations due to the civil unrest in that country. When the Yugoslavs could not buy any more IAR-93, Romania decided to stop production for itself, as well. It is hard to say how many of them were produced in total, but I figure the number must be close to two hundred units.
There are many estimates as to how many IAR-93 were produced... I heard Yugoslavia still had around 40 of them before the start of the Kosovo War in 1999.
The estimates for Romania range anywhere between over 80 to over 150 aircraft. There are currently between 70 and 130 aircraft stored in Romania (the others have crashed among the years).
The Romanian Air Force operated the IAR-93 in a few large squadrons, each having around 35 aircraft.
There were two IAR-93 squadrons at Sibiu and one IAR-93 squadron at Craiova, which operated a total of around 125 aircraft in 1992.
Romania decided to retire all IAR-93's from flight in 1998, after a lot of crashes in which many pilots also died.
The Rolls Royce Viper engine, built under license at Turbomecanica in Bucharest, never failed to... fail during flight, the gross majority of the crashes taking place due to the Viper's bad habbit of shutting down during the flight.
Not only that it had the habbit of turning itself off when you needed it the most, but it also did not had a very high affinity for starting itself. At one time, the Romanian Air Force was testing the squadron in Craiova. There was an alert, and all the thirty-five units had to take-off and "intercept the enemy" (Craiova being a border air base, close to Bulgaria and Yugoslavia). Out of 35 units, only ten managed to take-off, six of which had problems in flight and had to return for landing in just 10-20 minutes. So, in a real war situation, you'd remain with only four units in the air.
However, the IAR-93 wasn't at all "a complete failure", as many Romanian engineers and enthuziast would claim it to be. Actually not that many at all, I've met more people who consider it to be the very contrary of that, namely "the best Romanian plane ever". I think it's a gross error to call it that, whoever does probably doesn't remember oh well, about two hundred planes that were developed by Romania before. However, it should not be considered a complete failure neither.
Let's not forget the precarious and secretive conditions in which it was developed..let's not forget the amazing design, the cute small cannar wings it has, the efficient aerodynamics and let's remember that the crushing majority of the crushes as well as most of the inconveniences related to IAR-93 were linked to the pitful Rolls Royce engine, not to the design or even the manufacturing of the aircraft itself.
Even more than that, the Yugoslavian J-22 Orao was the only aircraft that the Americans could not jam during the Kosovo war of 1999.
The US forces jammed and therefore grounded all the MiG-21 Fishbeds, MiG-29 Fulcrums, Mi-24 Hinds and Mi-8 Hips of the Yugoslavian forces by sending an EMP (ElectroMagnetical Pulse) just before the start of the ground war, but the EA-6B Prowlers sure did had a surprize when they saw this cute thing flying around !
Well, what else can I say, even if it was built "only with the hammer and the hands" as the chief engineer of the project said (a Romanian eng), the IAR93 still managed to dodge modern technology three decades after its first flight. This time, not the "Great Empire of the Soviet Socialist Republics" got to be surprised to see the IAR-93 flying, but it was the turn of the US Air Force, which was surprized to find them flying in full jamming conditions during the 1999 Kosovo war.
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The Sorin IAR-93 Vultur and J-22 Orao page is Copyright 1999-2004 by
A Crasmarelu from Sorin Air Group
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