On 20 May 1971, the governments of Romania and Yugoslavia signed an agreement for the formation of YuRom, a joint R&D venture. The program was headed by Dipl. Dr. Engineer Teodor Zanfirescu of Romania and Colonel Vidoje Knezević of Yugoslavia. The aircraft was intended as a replacement for the lightly armed Soko J-21 Jastreb (Hawk) and the Republic F-84 Thunderjet, then in the JNA arsenal.
The requirements called for a light aircraft to be built on a simple structure, using locally produced equipment and avionics (but compatible with western components), tough (able to operate on grass or damaged runways), easy to maintain and reliable. The aircraft was of conventional twin-engine, high mounted wing monoplane configuration with all flying surfaces swept. The designers originally planned a single-engined supersonic aircraft, but Britain would not authorize the license for the engine the designers wanted (due to Romania being in the Warsaw Pact), so the less-powerful Rolls-Royce Viper was chosen as the powerplant, as Soko had experience with license-building this engine. It was originally intended that an afterburner would be developed for the Viper engines, but there were prolonged difficulties with this project, meaning that none of the pre-production aircraft featured it, and neither did early production examples. During the 1980s, both countries developed slightly different versions to take advantage of the after burning engines that had since become available.
The Yugoslav prototype 25002 made its first flight on November 1976 from Batajnica Air Base near Belgrade, with Major Vladislav Slavujević at the controls.
The third aircraft, numbered 003, a pre-production two-seater version, made its first flight on 4 July 1977, but was lost almost a year later due to tail flutter problems. However, construction continued, and the first batches of pre-production machines were delivered in 1978 to the Air Force Aircraft Testing Facility in Belgrade, with serial production being set-up in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On 22 November 1984, Orao 25101 piloted by test pilot Marjan Jelen broke the sound barrier in a shallow dive over Batajnica Air Base, becoming the first Yugoslav-designed aircraft to exceed Mach 1. The aircraft, however, is incapable of breaking the sound barrier in level flight, so it is classified as subsonic.
The J-22 is a twin-engined combat jet aircraft for close air support, ground attack and tactical reconnaissance warplane with limited air-defense capability
Standard communication and navigation equipment, plus (fire control and weapons management) Thompson-CSF VE-120T HUD replacing the original Ferranti ISIS D-282 gyro sight (defensive sensors and systems) Iskra SO-1 RWR and provision for up to three chaff/flare dispensers and P10-65-13 passive jammer pod, and (navigation) Honeywell SGP500 twin-gyro platform; there is also provision for an optical/IR reconnaissance pod or an optical reconnaissance/jammer pod
JRV J-22 deploying Drogue parachute.
The first SFR Yugoslav Air Force unit which received J-22 aircraft was the 351st (reconnaissance aviation squadron) from 82nd Aviation Brigade, Cerklje. Until the 1991 war, there were only three squadrons fully equipped with J-22 attack aircraft and NJ-22 trainer-attack aircraft. Those units were the 238th (fighter-bomber aviation squadron) from 82nd Aviation Brigade, 241st and 98nd Aviation Brigade and 242nd and 127th Fighter-Bomber Regiment, Golubovci Airbase. There were also about three squadrons partly equipped with J-22 aircraft.
In 1999, Yugoslav J-22s saw limited combat against the KLA flying 20 combat missions at treetop level with no air-to-air losses to NATO aircraft. However, one J-22 was lost after being hit by ground fire. In addition, 11 aircraft were destroyed on the ground, most at Ponikve airbase when a NATO air strike hit one hangar with six J-22 and two MiG-21 aircraft.
On June 3, 2010, a Serbian Air Force Orao, piloted by Major Slobodan Jocić, crashed in central Serbia. The aircraft's landing gear malfunctioned, forcing the pilot to direct the aircraft into a lake and eject. The pilot was rescued soon after the incident.