Cold War Yugoslav Armor


Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1956-1991)
Armored Personnel Carrier – 790 Built

During the late 1950s, the Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija (JNA, English: Yugoslavian People’s Army) became aware of the fact that its inventory lacked an armored personnel carrier (APC) able to effectively transport the supporting infantry of armored formations. In 1956, a project, initially known as M-590, began. Its development would lead to the creation of the first Yugoslavian APC, designated as M-60. Despite huge expectations, this vehicle would prove to be a rather poor and outdated design. While the whole project was problematic from the start, the M-60 would actually, to some extent, outlive its creator.

The first domestically developed and built Yugoslavian APC, the M-60. Source:

Need for an APC

The JNA, like many other modern armies in the world, was aware that, in order to fully exploit a tank offensive, they needed adequate infantry support. This concept was especially proven during the Second World War with the rapid German panzer division offensives, which were supported by mechanized infantry formations. They employed specially designed half-track vehicles to provide the necessary mobility for their infantry. Using a combination of tracks and wheels increased their mobility greatly. While effective in their role, these vehicles were not perfect, as they were too expensive to make.

After the war, thanks to technological advancements, it was possible to use fully-tracked vehicles that were relatively cheap and had good drive performance. These early designs followed the same concept of placing a simple box-shaped superstructure on a tracked chassis. These were lightly protected and had an armament that usually consisted of a few machine guns. US APCs, such as the M59, are probably the best-known designs of this era.

The M59 APC was designed to replace the older M75 APC. This particular vehicle would have a great influence on the later first domestically developed Yugoslav APC. Source:

Back in Europe, after the war, the JNA possessed some captured German half-tracks, which saw limited use. Given the lack of spare parts, their practical use beyond training and exercises was out of the question. As nothing else was available, JNA infantry units that were meant to support tank formations had to rely on trucks for transport. While trucks provided an increase in mobility, they simply could not keep up with tanks on rough terrain, which meant that the infantry could not follow up. In addition, the trucks themselves did not have any kind of armor protection, exposing the infantry to enemy fire. Thus, a need for a tracked and fully protected APC arose during the late 1950s. Inspiration for this project was more or less taken from the American M59 and M113 APCs. This may seem surprising at first, but at that time, despite being a Communist state, Yugoslavia had good political and military cooperation with the United States for some time.

At the end of 1956, representatives from all military branches that were interested in this project held a meeting to discuss the performance and characteristics that the new APC should have. The project was viewed as quite ambitious and many different solutions were proposed. For example, the infantry branch wanted a vehicle that could transport 20 soldiers and armed with either a 12.7 mm machine gun or a recoilless gun. Another proposal was that its chassis be reused for various self-propelled configurations armed with different caliber weapons, ranging from 40 to 105 mm. A tractor version with a capacity of 9 tonnes was also proposed. By April 1957, the final design was agreed upon. It was to be amphibious, the transport capacity was to include 10 soldiers, the armament should consist of one heavy machine gun, it would have a fully enclosed compartment, etc.

Troublesome Start

Initially, the project was designated as Object M-590. The first prototype was completed in 1958 and, the following year, it was used for various testing runs. While the overall design of the upper superstructure was influenced by the M59 APC, the hull and the suspension unit were taken from the obsolete SU-76M. Why the Yugoslavian engineers decided to reuse this outdated chassis is unknown. The JNA had in its inventory some 87 aging SU-76Ms, which were, at this point, obsolete and put into storage. Yugoslavian engineers had worked on several different domestic tank projects with limited success by this point. The decision to reuse the SU-76 chassis was possibly made in order to speed up development time, reusing components that were available. In either case, this decision would have huge long-term negative consequences for the whole project.

The JNA had some 87 aging SU-76Ms in its inventory. These were either purchased or received as gifts from the Soviet Union after the war. Even at that point, when the JNA had trouble finding sufficient modern armored vehicles, the SU-76M was seen as a completely inadequate vehicle and only remained in service until a proper replacement was found. Source: Magazine Arsenal 65/2012

Following the introduction of the first prototype, five more vehicles were to be completed by the end of 1960. Some 10 additional prototype vehicles were ordered, and these were to be completed by April 1961. Even before the testing trials were completed, the JNA officials tasked FAMOS, a vehicle manufacturer, with the first serial production order of 46 vehicles. These were to be completed by 1963. This order was further expanded by a yearly production quota of 50 vehicles during the period of 1964 to 1976. After that, the yearly production was to increase up to 100 vehicles. As it turns out, these plans were a bit overly ambitious given the fact that the whole project was, at that point, in an early stage of development.

More extensive testing of the prototypes was carried out from October to November 1960. During this period, three prototypes were used to cross a distance of 2,200 km. This trial showed the many deficiencies in the SU-76’s suspension. Torsion bar breakdowns were frequent and there were even cases of the road wheels’ rubber rims falling off. From January to February 1961, more tests were carried out on all six available prototypes. A shorter distance of 1,000 km was chosen for these trials. The M-590’s 140 hp engine showed to be too weak and prone to overheating. The clutch steering units proved to be ineffective, and the amphibious properties were inadequate, as the vehicle was difficult to control during river crossings. Despite all shortcomings, this project received a green light from the JNA officials.


In its early prototype stage, this project received the Oklopni transporter (English: Armored personnel carrier) M-590 designation. When the vehicle entered service with the JNA, the name was changed to M-60.

Futile Improvement Attempts

Following the completion of the first prototypes, it quickly became apparent that the new M-60 would need to receive extensive modifications before it was put into service. There was a fear that, even with these modifications, the M-60 would lose its amphibious properties, something which actually occurred with the newly built prototypes. To avoid this, it was proposed to increase the M-60’s overall size, but at the same time, reduce its weight. Other proposed changes included installing a stronger engine and using a better-quality transmission. Constant changes to the M-60’s overall design only led to confusion and delays in production. In addition, the Yugoslavian industry was unable to produce some necessary components, such as radios, night vision equipment, etc. This meant that some prototypes could not be fully equipped and, as a result, properly tested.

In April 1961, six more prototypes were delivered. These were given to the school teaching center for armored units. In the same year, an improved prototype was developed under the M-590-1 designation. It incorporated some modifications, such as an improved control system, using a dual differential, extending the vehicle by 17 cm, etc. In turn, these changes led to more problems than they solved. The M-590-1’s weight was increased from the original 9.5 to 10.7 tonnes, which greatly affected its overall drive performance, reducing the maximum speed from 45 km/h to 37 km/h. Once again, the amphibious properties were lost. The work on M-590-1 would be finally discontinued in 1963. By that point, a decision was made to focus solely on the regular M-60, despite its flaws. Due to M-60’s unsatisfactory performance by this point, another APC project was initiated As it would take years before it was ready, as a temporary solution, the M-60 was to be produced in a small series. In 1963 and 1964, a production of 60 M-60s was expected.

In the meantime, the production of the pre-series ran into serious delays. There were huge issues with the delivery of necessary armor plates. This was not the only problem, as many of these plates had to be discarded due to poor production quality. Bureaucratic delays and lack of technical documentation did not help either. While these were supposed to be built in 1962, they would not be delivered until 1964. Fearing that these problems would only lead to further delays in production, the JNA officials decided to go on with the manufacturing of the M-60 operational vehicles. At this point, the 0-series was not yet completed, let alone properly tested. Once again, the Yugoslav industry failed to deliver the promised vehicles. The Yugoslavian military industry could not provide the necessary parts, such as the armament and the radio equipment. Not surprisingly, the acquisition and production of the suspension caused additional delays. What is surprising is that the necessary parts of the relatively simple SU-76 suspension were difficult to reproduce. The newly delivered parts, such as the tracks or the road wheels, were often not interchangeable. To resolve this issue somewhat, spare parts for the suspension had to be imported from Hungary. Given the old age of the SU-76s and that it was no longer produced, the available spare parts imported from Hungary were probably of dubious quality.

The M-60, despite its simple appearance, proved difficult to produce, mostly due to the inadequately developed Yugoslav military industry. Source:

Testing the 0-series

The 30 0-series vehicles were finally ready for testing in 1964. Part of them was transported to Čapljine and Nevesinje for testing and evaluation, while some were given to FAMOS, where the serial production was expected to commence. A number of them were also allocated to the 329th Armored Brigade for troop trials. For the anticipated victory parade that was held in May, some of these vehicles were prepared to be used. During the preparation and rehearsals for the parade, a number of defects were discovered on these vehicles, such as broken water pumps and oil coolers.

The 329th Armored Brigade issued a report where the M-60’s overall performance was noted as being rather poor. A frequent complaint by this point was the weak engine. Overheating was a quite regular occurrence during M-60 driving. Accumulating mud on the suspension was another problem that could lead to track breakdowns. The machine gun was described as being difficult to use in a horizontal position, which sometimes led to the crew being injured during firing. The commander’s vision was limited when his hatch was closed, the transmission problems persisted, etc. The 329th Armored Brigade requested that all 12 vehicles that were in their inventory be moved to FAMOS for necessary modifications and improvements to be implemented. As FAMOS simply lacked production capacity, this could not be achieved.

M-60 Production

Despite the obvious flaws of the M-60, the JNA officials insisted that its production should commence as soon as possible. As has been seen before, there were numerous delays in the actual start of the production. The JNA placed a new order to FAMOS for the first series of 60 M-60s, which was to be completed by mid-December 1965. It was requested that the problems with the 0-series be resolved by the time of the M-60’s production, something to which the FAMOS officials agreed. Astonishingly, the JNA had plans to produce nearly 2,000 M-60 vehicles. This number was far from reality as, by 1967, when the production stopped, only 180 M-60s were built. The production of the latter M-60P and M-60PB would continue until 1979, by which time 790 vehicles were built in total. The production of these was carried out by FAMOS too.



The M-60 hull could be divided into a few different sections. These included: the front-mounted transmission, followed by the crew compartment, the centrally placed engine, and the rear-positioned passenger compartment.


The M-60 was powered by a FTR six-cylinder 140 hp @2,000 rpm diesel engine. On good roads, its consumption was 85 (D-2 diesel) liters of fuel and 0.85 liters of oil for a 100 km distance. Off-road driving increased consumption to 140 liters of fuel and 1.65 liters of oil over the same distance. Two fuel tanks (each with 185 liters) were placed to the rear, in the passenger compartment, and under the stationary seats. The engine itself was accessible from inside the vehicle and through a hatch located on top of the superstructure. The M-60 was equipped with the 5GFTR five-speed (and one reverse) transmission.
With a weight of 10.7 tonnes, the M-60 was capable of achieving a maximum speed of 43 km/h. This dropped to only 20 km/h off-road. The M-60 was quite a slow vehicle, as there were problems with the drive unit and engine overheating, additionally limiting its maximum drive speed. The maximum operational range was 400 km. It was capable of crossing a 2 m wide trench, and driving over vertical obstacles up to 0.6 m.

A drawing of the FTR six-cylinder engine. Source: Oklopni Transporter M-60 Priručnik Za Motomehanizovano Odeljenje


Possibly to help reduce the development time, it was decided to reuse the obsolete SU-76M torsion bar suspension with some modifications. This included reducing the number of road wheels to five per side, changing the front drive sprocket, and using new tracks. The number of return rollers remained the same, with three per side. Two types of tracks were used, either a 350 mm wide one with 92 to 94 tack links or a slightly wider 400 mm one with 93 to 96 tack links While simple, this suspension proved prone to breakdowns, and acquiring spare parts was not always easy.

A good side view of the SU-76M’s torsion bar suspension. Source:
The M-60 employed the same suspension, with some changes. The most noticeable is the reduced number of road wheels and the addition of a new type of front drive sprocket. Source: Magazine Poligon 1/2017
It was common to see fenders added on top of the M-60’s suspension. Source: Magazine Poligon 1/2017


The M-60 was provided with a simple superstructure. The front consisted of two angled armor plates. A trim vane was connected to the lower plate. Given that the M-60 lost its amphibious properties at the prototype stage due to the added weight, this was quite pointless. This trim vane did not have any major purpose but was not removed. On the right upper side of this plate, a small machine gun port was placed. On the upper front plate, two hatches for the radio operator and the driver were placed. Each of these and the commander’s hatch were provided with an M-61 type periscope. Given the lack of a proper command cupola, the commander’s field of vision was quite limited when his hatch was closed. Between these two hatches were the night vision headlights. These were part of the IC type M63 night vision device.

On the front upper plate, two hatches were added to be used by the driver and, in this case, the radio operator. The M-60 had, in general, quite a limited field of view. Source:
Between the driver and radio operator hatches, the night vision headlights of the IC type M63 night vision device were positioned. Source:
Close-up view of the IC type M63 night vision device from JNA manuals. Source: Oklopni Transporter M-60 Priručnik Za Motomehanizovano Odeljenje

The superstructure sides were also divided, with the lower plate being flat and the upper one slightly curved inward. In order to provide the commander and the gunner with more working space, the superstructure in these areas was extended outwards. There were no side vision ports, but the rear-positioned passengers could use six (three on each side) firing ports. To the rear, a large two-part hatch with two firing ports was located.

M-60 side view. Notice the three small firing ports to the rear. Interestingly, this was one of the 190 M-60s which were sold to Iraq. While basically the same, the only major differences were the replacement of the Browning machine gun mount with a new one designed to hold the Soviet 12.7 mm DShK and the different top hatches at the rear. Source:

The top armor was completely flat. To the left of the vehicle’s top was the commander’s hatch. On the opposite side, the mount for the heavy machine gun and the gunner’s hatch were placed. Between them was the ventilation hatch for the engine. To the rear part of the top, there were three additional round-shaped hatches. These were to be used by the passengers for either exiting the vehicle or, in cases of emergency, used to fire at aerial targets.

Rear view of the M-60’s superstructure. Notice the large two-part door that acted as the main entry point for the soldiers. Source:


The M-60 was lightly armored. The front armor plate was 15 mm thick. The upper angled plate, with the two hatches for the driver and the machine gunner, was only 9 mm thick. The flat sides were 13 mm thick, while the upper angled one was 10 mm thick. The rear armor was 10 mm thick.


Armament consisted of one 12.7 mm PAM (Protiv-avionski mitraljez – anti-aircraft machine gun) heavy machine gun (basically an M2 Browning) and one 7.92 mm M-53 (a copy of the German MG 42). The heavy machine gun was positioned on a mount providing 360º fire on the top right side of the superstructure. No protective gun shield was provided for its gunner. This heavy machine gun had sufficient firepower to engage unprotected targets (soft-skin vehicles, for example) up to 1 km. It also could be used to engage lightly protected targets up to 500 m. In order to avoid potentially injuring a crew member, a spent ammunition cartridge bag was attached to this machine gun. Given its large caliber, the gunner could choose between several different types of ammunition depending on the combat needs. These included the M2 standard round, M2 armor-piercing round, M8 armor-piercing incendiary round, M1 and M25 incendiary rounds, and lastly, M20 armor-piercing incendiary tracer round.

The 12.7 mm PAM gunner could traverse a full circle and engage low-flying targets. He was completely exposed to enemy fire. Source: Oklopni Transporter M-60 Priručnik Za Motomehanizovano Odeljenje
The M-60 12.7 mm PAM operator could choose between several different types of ammunition. These included (from top to bottom): M2 standard round, M2 armor-piercing round, M8 armor-piercing incendiary round, M1 and M25 incendiary rounds, and M20 armor-piercing incendiary tracer round. Source: Oklopni Transporter M-60 Priručnik Za Motomehanizovano Odeljenje

Secondary armament consisted of an M-53 machine gun. This was positioned on the lower right side of the superstructure. It was operated by a radio operator. The M-53 was to be used against infantry formations up to 1.5 km distance. If needed, it could be dismounted and placed on top of the M-60 to act as an auxiliary light anti-aircraft gun. In this configuration, aerial targets could be engaged at a distance of up to 1 km. The M-53 was fed by a 50-round drum magazine. Two types of rounds were used for this machine gun, consisting of a standard M-49 type round and a tracer round.

The M-53 was fired by the radio operator from inside the vehicle. Source: Oklopni Transporter M-60 Priručnik Za Motomehanizovano Odeljenje

Besides these, the M-60’s firepower was further augmented by the personal weapons of the passengers. These initially included rifles and semi-automatic rifles, but would be replaced with submachine guns. In addition, at least two more M-53 machine guns were also carried by the dismounted unit. Some of these could be fired from the eight firing ports. The two extra M-53s were usually placed on each side of the vehicle.

An example of using one of the eight firing ports. This soldier is using a captured German MP 40 submachine gun. Source: Oklopni Transporter M-60 Priručnik Za Motomehanizovano Odeljenje

Crew and Infantry Dismount

The crew of this vehicle could be divided into two groups. The first included the driver, who was positioned on the left side, and the radio operator placed on the other side of him. The radio equipment consisted of a R-113 and R-120 intercom radio set. It used a rod antenna located just right of the radio operator. In rarer cases, a 2.5-wire antenna could also be used. The radio had an effective range of up to 20 km when the vehicle was stationary. During movement, this was reduced to 1 to 2.5 km. The radio operator was also tasked with operating the hull-positioned machine gun. The driver was trained to act as a mechanic.

Behind them, the PAM heavy machine gun’s operator was placed on the right and opposite him was the commander position. If, for some reason, the commander was unable to perform his task (being injured or, in the worst-case scenario, killed), the heavy machine gun operator was to take charge of the vehicle.

The M-60 had a crew of four, all of which were located in the front part of the vehicle. Source: Magazine Poligon 1/2017

The passenger compartment was able to accommodate a squad of between 8 to 9 soldiers. While maintenance was the primary responsibility of the vehicle’s crews, the remaining passengers were tasked with providing necessary assistance during such operations, despite not always being trained to do so.

The M-60’s rear compartment had room for up to 9 fully armed soldiers. Source:

Modernizations and Versions

Further Improved: M-60P

Given the M-60’s poor performance, the JNA was unwilling to put more time and resources into this project. So, after the initial 180 vehicles were completed, production was stopped. The available vehicles were put into service. JNA commanders hoped that further APC development would lead to the quick introduction of a much-improved vehicle. Unfortunately for them, this did not materialize, and, at the start of the 1970s, most of the available M-60s were in a state of disrepair. As the production had been basically canceled, the availability of spare parts was limited. This was especially true for vital automotive components. Units that used them urged for the delivery of necessary parts and requested that a major overhaul be done on all available vehicles. The JNA was left with a dilemma about what to do next. The development of the new APC would not be completed for years to come but, on the other hand, the M-60 did not meet expectations and had many flaws. The dilemma, in truth, had only one solution and that was to somehow improve the overall characteristics of the M-60. The alternative was that the JNA would be forced to use trucks for transporting their mechanized infantry, which was deemed unacceptable.

Luckily for them, FAMOS was already working on a new steering (planetary/epicyclic gearing) system, which was tested in 1970. It was tested on one vehicle, which was designated as M-60P. The P stands for either Poboljšan (English: Improved) or Planetarni (English: Planetary). Before this change was implemented, the Uprava Oklopnih Jedinica (English: Armored Unit Administration) proposed that it should be examined and tested in detail on a few more prototypes. While the new steering unit proved promising, it was far from perfect and breakdowns were frequently reported. Given the great need for such vehicles and the lack of anything better, it was decided to upgrade all remaining (less than 180 vehicles, at that point) M-60s to the M-60P standard as soon as possible. Production of brand-new vehicles of the M-60P series began in 1973. Visually, these two vehicles were identical, as most modifications were mainly done regarding the steering unit.


Increasing firepower was another point that the Yugoslav engineers wanted to achieve. The heavy machine gun was enough to deal with lightly armored targets, but against better-protected vehicles, it could do little. It could also not offer explosive support against dug-in infantry or fortified positions. Of course, adding any larger armament was out of the question due to weight limitations. The easiest solution was simply to use two 82 mm M-60 recoilless guns. The project was initiated in 1972, with the completion of two prototypes. These were built using two modified M-60P vehicles. The main armament was placed on a specially designed mount. To house this mount, the rear part of the top part of the crew compartment was modified. While the main armament was retained, some structural changes were necessary. For example, the number of passengers was reduced to 7 (commander and six soldiers). The number of crew was not increased and included the driver, radio operator, 12.7 mm machine gun operator, and the recoilless gun operator. Technically speaking, the number of crew was reduced, as one of them had to take the role of the dismount’s commander.

By 1973, three such prototypes were used to test if the whole concept had any merit. Initial testing was carried out at the military training ground in Moljača. After these were successfully completed, the three vehicles were given to the 329th Armored Brigade for troop trials. Production was approved in 1973. Unfortunately, sources do not provide us with a precise number built of this version. Like its predecessors, this version was also built by FAMOS.

The M-60PB introduced increased firepower with two recoilless guns. Its installation necessitated some structural changes but, otherwise, the vehicle was the same as the M-60P. Source: Magazine Poligon 1/2017
The 82 mm M-60 recoilless gun was able to engage fortified positions up to 1.6 km distance and armored vehicles up to 1 km. It was capable of penetrating up to 400 mm of homogeneous armor. Source: Vojna tehnika i naoruzanje Jugoslavije i Srbije Facebook group

The superstructure was redesigned to only two rear top hatches. The left one was where the gun main was placed and was used by the gunner. Next to it was another hatch placed which was to be used during gun reloading. The two M-60 recoilless guns were placed on a simple mount, with the barrels placed on either side of the operator. This new armament installation was flawed in its design. The gunner had to completely expose himself during the aiming and firing of the two recoilless guns. The rate of fire was between 4 to 5 rounds per minute. The elevation angles were quite modest, with -4° to +6°. It was possibly restricted by the huge backlash created during the firing of these guns. While it technically had a full 360º firing angle, the position of the forward-mounted machine gun prevented this gun from firing in this direction. As the operator required extra working space, the rear part of the upper superstructure had to be redesigned. The gunner’s position was extended with a bulged armor plate, the same as done with the forward gunner and the commander’s positions. In addition, the installation of this position led to the deletion of the last firing port. The added firepower was seen as an improvement and thus it was adopted for service as the M-60PB, with the B standing either for Bestrzajni (English: Recoilless) or Bojni (English: Combat), depending on the source.

There is an unconfirmed story that Josip Broz Tito himself proposed that such a version be developed. Allegedly, during the inspection of armored vehicles used during the Sloboda 71 military exercise, he came across the M-60P. After inspecting it, Tito was satisfied with this vehicle but asked that it should have anti-tank weapons.

Adding two recoilless guns increased the offensive capabilities of the M-60PB. The overall design was poorly carried out, providing no protection for the gunner. Source:
In order to find targets and fire the two guns, the gun operator had to expose himself to potential enemy fire. Source:
The new gun installation required some work on the upper superstructure. The rear-firing port had to be removed and an enlarged gun operator compartment had to be added instead. It extended beyond the upper superstructure armor. Source:


Another version that was introduced into service was a command version equipped with additional radio equipment (R-123 and R-112) designated as M-60PK – Komandni (English Command). No production number for these versions is given, but it is likely that, depending on the need, ordinary vehicles were converted for this role.

Other Proposals and Projects

There were also numerous additional proposals for M-60 design improvements, such as using new tracks, removing the trim vane, new handles for the hatches, adding an 82 mm mortar or a 2 cm cannon, etc,. All these implemented or proposed modifications were a mixed bag. All the new changes extended the M-60’s operational service life, but on the other hand, the overall performance was still poor. Adding new modifications led only to a rise in production and maintenance costs without offering any major advantage over the basic version, so many of these would not be introduced.

At least one vehicle was tested with an 80 mm mortar being installed inside the passenger compartment. As no production order was given for it, is it possible that the whole design was impractical or overly complicated. Source:

There were also a few proposed versions, such as ammunition transport or medical versions, but these remained at the prototype stage.

The M-60 was a poorly designed vehicle, but given that nothing else was available, it was kept in production. Source:


In Use with the JNA

The first few produced M-60 prototypes were presented to the Yugoslav public in 1962, during a May military parade held in the capital, Belgrade. The first 80 production vehicles were distributed to the following units:

Unit – Armored Brigade Quantities
1st 10
203rd 20
221st 10
243rd 30
252nd 10

After only two years in service, two M-60s had to be written off. In the following years, the M-60s were used in various military parades and exercises. The poor mechanical reliability and lack of spare parts greatly affected their performance. For example, during the military exercise Pčinja 72 (in 1972), of 30 vehicles from the 243rd Armored Brigade, 14 broke down due to problems with the running gear. The later version M-60P proved to be less unreliable, but far from a perfect solution.

The M-60 was shown to the general public in 1962 during a May military parade held in Belgrade. After that, it was a common sight. Source:

Just before the outbreak of the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s, the JNA had in its inventory 551 M-60P and PBs. The JNA had planned just before the war to reduce this number to around 398 M-60s, but this never occurred. During its use by the JNA, the M-60 received the mocking nickname Peglica (English: An iron), a Yugoslavian name often also given to the small FIAT 126 car.

Given that nothing better was available, the M-60 was extensively used by the JNA during army exercises and training. Source:

The M-60 was to be replaced with a much more advanced M-80 APC. The M-80 was larger, was better armed and protected, and most importantly had an engine that was mechanically reliable. The later APC was introduced to service in 1976 but was not produced in sufficient numbers to fully replace the obsolete M-60.

The M-80 was designed as the M-60 replacement but due to insufficient production numbers, it never achieved this. Source:

In The Yugoslav Police Service

In 1975, some M-60s were allocated to Yugoslav Police units, with the Army providing the necessary training. In contrast to those used by the JNA, the Police M-60s were completely painted in blue. At least 21 M-60s remained in use with the Serbian police forces in the cities of Kraljevo and Niš up to 2004.

The M-60s used by the police forces were easily recognizable thanks to their blue camouflage color. Source:

The Yugoslav Civil Wars

The political and economical crisis of the late 1980s, together with ever-rising nationalism in all federal entities in Yugoslavia, would ultimately lead to a bloody and costly civil war. These events are still politically and historically controversial, especially in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. The reasons why it started, who started it, when, and even its name are still ferociously debated to this day. Unfortunately, the war was accompanied by great suffering and crimes committed by all warring parties.

The outbreak of the Yugoslavian Civil war was chaotic in nature. Various paramilitary forces began to appear in the western part of Yugoslavia, especially in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The JNA initially tried to subdue these, but various factors (desertions, chaotic organization, poor morale, and rushed decisions) lead to unnecessary losses in men and material.

One of the first combat usages of the M-60 happened on 2nd July 1991 in Slovenia. On that day, elements of a JNA armored column clashed with Slovenian forces near Prilep. At least four M-60s were reported damaged.

In 1992, the JNA initiated a general evacuation of its personnel and equipment to Serbia. Many of its vehicles had to be left behind, and they were often captured and reused by the various military and paramilitary organizations which were present in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. After this point, the M-60 saw service with all warring parties in various roles. When used in direct combat, the M-60 generally performed poorly due to its weak armor. The use of portable anti-tank weapons (often imported despite the military embargo placed on Yugoslavia) was quite common, so armored vehicle losses were rather high during the war. A lightly protected M-60 stood little chance of survival when engaged with modern anti-tank weapons.

This was the fate of many M-60s which, because of their weak protection, fell victim to various anti-armor weapons. Source:
A M-60PB operated by Croatian forces during the war. Source:

As the direct use of the M-60 in combat was rather dangerous, many were converted to perform various other roles. These included modifying the interior so that they could be reused as transport or medical vehicles. Croatian forces modified a few M-60s by extending their rear crew compartment, creating mobile ambulances for evacuating wounded soldiers and civilians. Other than that, some M-60s received various weapon upgrades. One such vehicle received an aircraft rocket pod, intended to be used as an improvised artillery support vehicle.

Croatian forces modified some M-60s as ambulance vehicles. These received extended rear parts of the crew compartment to make additional rooms for the wounded. Source:
This surviving M-60 received a 57 mm rocket pod mounted on top of it. If it was effective or even practical is anyone’s guess. Source:
The crew of this vehicle added one more machine gun point on top of the crew compartment. They also added a protective shield for this machine gun. Source:
Another bizarre M-60 modification had two light anti-aircraft guns in an improvised turret. Source:
This picture well describes the chaotic nature of the Yugoslav Wars. Many paramilitary formations took up arms, either with the real belief that they are fighting for liberation, as ad hoc defense militias, or simply to murder and plunder. Many of these combatants did not even have any uniforms. Source:

After the War

After the war, nearly all warring sides during this conflict had in their inventory some M-60s. Given the agreement of disarmament signed after the war, many armored vehicles were sent to be scrapped, as they were obsolete, or worn out. This was the fate of the M-60, many of which were scrapped.

Despite their obsolescence, the new Savezna Republika Jugoslavija (English: Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) Army had over 120 M-60s in its inventory. Given their obsolescence, it was decided to, if possible, sell these vehicles abroad and, if not, scrap them. The 1996 Agreement on Sub-Regional Arms Control, part of the Dayton Accords, actually offered this possibility. They were presented to various East European countries but no agreement was made. In 2004, it was proposed to donate some of them to the new Iraqi government, but nothing came from this. Eventually, they were mostly scrapped.

Other Users

In Iraqi Service

In 1975, Iraqi leader Sadam Husein visited Yugoslavia. This visit had the goal to establish political as well as potential military cooperation. It succeeded in this, as the following year, Josip Broz Tito visited Iraq. Several agreements for military cooperation were signed including the construction of secret and well-dug-in underground facilities. This agreement also included the shipment of weapons. Surprisingly, despite its poor design, Yugoslavia managed to sell 190 M-60s to the Iraqi Army. The Iraqi forces used a 12.7 mm Soviet DSK heavy machine gun instead of the original Browning. They saw action during the long Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. The M-60 was noted to be an almost unusable vehicle, being poorly protected and susceptible to engine overheating. There is an alleged story that, when the Yugoslavian delegation asked the Iraqi about the M-60’s performance, the Iraqis responded with “If you want us to remain friends, better not ask us”.

The M-60 was operated by the Iraqi forces. Note the last road wheel is replaced by a much smaller wheel for some reason. Source:

In the Role of a “German Tank”

In Yugoslavia, World War Two-themed movies and TV shows were quite popular. The JNA often provided necessary props, such as uniforms, weapons, volunteers, and sometimes even tanks. For the filming of the TV show Nepokoreni Grad (English: Unconquered City) in 1981, an M-60 was modified by receiving a fake (possibly even a real) Panzer III turret.

An interesting adaptation of an M-60 into a German Panzer III tank. Source:

Surviving Vehicles

Today, there are a dozen or so surviving M-60s spread around the former Yugoslavia. While most are stored or put on exhibit, some are in working condition, modified to be used for various civilian or military purposes.

A M-60PB that was preserved at the Bosnian Manjač training ground. Source:
M-60 at the Croatian Vukowar War Museum. Source: Wiki


The M-60’s development was plagued from the start by miscalculations, poor decision-making, and bad mechanical solutions, such as using a weak engine, light armor, etc. Adopting the obsolete SU-76’s suspension caused huge logistical problems, as this vehicle was long out of production, thus making the acquisition of spare parts difficult. Adding weight beyond the initial calculations made the M-60 lose its amphibious characteristics, which limited its combat effectiveness. Frequent changes to the design lead to delays in production. Using a weak engine limited the overall speed and was prone to overheating. The armor proved almost to be useless when it was used in combat.

In essence, the M-60 can be considered a failed project that did not live up to meet the expectations that were required of it. Probably the only positive thing that could be said about this vehicle is that it provided Yugoslav engineers with experience in designing such a vehicle, which would lead to the creation of a much better design, the M-80. It also served to give the troops a vehicle that was at least better than ordinary trucks used up to that point.

Basic M-60 APC
M-60PB with two 82 mm M-60 recoilless guns
Yugoslav police M-60
M-60 as seen at the Croatian Vukowar War Museum
Iraqi M-60PB
M-60 disguised as a Panzer III for the TV show Nepokoreni Grad

M-60 Specification

Size (L-W-H) 5 x 2.7 x 1.86 m
Weight, battle-ready 10.7 tonnes
Crew 4 (Driver, commander, radio operator, and gunner)
Engine FAP six-cylinder 140 hp @2,000 rpm diesel engine
Speed/off-road 40 km/h, 20 km/h
Range/off-road 400 km, 250 km
Primary Armament one 12.7 mm PAM heavy machine gun
Secondary Armament One 7.62 M-56 machine gun
Armor up to 15 mm


Držani Sekretarijat za Narodnu Odbranu (1970) Oklopni Transporter M-60 Priručnik Za Motomehanizovano Odeljenje, Vojna Štamparija Beograd
B. B. Dumitrijević (2010), Modernizacija i Intervencija, Jugoslovenske Oklopne Jedinice 1945-2006, Institut za Savremenu Istoriju
M. Dragojević (2003) Razvoj Našeg neoružanja VTI kao sudbina, Zadužbina Adrijević
Magazine Poligon 1/2017
M. Jandrić, Seventh Decade of the Military Technical Institute (1948–2013)

Cold War Yugoslav Armor

SU-76M in Yugoslav Service

Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1946-1957)
Self-Propelled Gun – 87 Operated

During the 1950s, the Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija, or JNA (Eng. Yugoslav People’s Army, YPA) acquired a series of different armored vehicles from the Soviet Union. While some of this equipment would remain in use up to the 2000s, others were only operated for a short period until more modern replacements were acquired. This is the case of the SU-76M, of which some 87 were operated by the JNA up to 1957, before being scrapped.

The SU-76M in JNA service. Source: Magazine Arsenal 65/2012

The SU-76M

The SU-76 was developed as a Soviet attempt to increase the mobility of its 7.62 cm guns. To speed up the development time, it was decided to reuse components that were already in production. For this purpose, the T-70 light tank chassis and its suspension were reused. The new vehicle, designated as SU-76, had a forward-positioned driver, central engine, and rear fighting compartment. Unusually for Soviet vehicles, it used two engines placed side by side. Initially, the rear fighting compartment was fully enclosed. During the initial production run, some problems with the engine and the enclosed fighting compartment were noted. To resolve these, slightly stronger engines were reconfigured into a linear position while the fighting compartment was opened at the top and partially to the rear. This version received the SU-76M designation. While it was built in huge numbers, over 12,000 vehicles, it was not a particularly competent vehicle given its poor armor protection and insufficient firepower. Regardless, this vehicle would see extensive action with the Soviet Army from 1943 until the end of the Second World War. Obsolete, the Soviets exported the SU-76M to a number of Soviet-aligned countries around the world, including Yugoslavia.

Side view of a Soviet SU-76M. Source:

The SU-76M in Yugoslavia

The SU-76M was used in Yugoslavia for the first time by the advancing Soviet 3rd Ukraine Front. These supported the Yugoslav Partisans, helping them liberate many towns in Serbia, including the capital, Belgrade. A rather limited number of them, fewer than 30, were used. Despite the small quantities used, they likely would have seen extensive combat action, especially during the fighting for the capital Belgrade. After their objectives were completed, the 3rd Ukraine Front began moving toward Hungary to continue fighting the remaining Axis forces there.

After the Second World War

Following the end of the Second World War, the Partisan forces became the nucleus of the JNA. Initially, the main armored forces consisted mainly of captured or supplied Allied vehicles. Due to the shattered industry and infrastructure across Yugoslavia, the production of new vehicles and equipment was not possible. Thus, the rearmament of this new army was heavily based on foreign imports. In the first few years after the war, the main Yugoslav arms and weapons supplier was the Soviet Union. Given that both countries were led by Communist parties and had cooperated during the war, this was not surprising. From 1946 on, the JNA received great quantities of weapons, equipment, and armored vehicles. While the majority of them were T-34-85s some 52 SU-76M were also acquired. Not all these Soviet vehicles were donated, as the majority were actually purchased from the Soviets. Each of the 52 SU-76Ms cost US$14,320. The SU-76Ms arrived at the Yugoslav-Hungarian border on 27th April 1947. From there, they were transported by rail to Subotica in Vojvodina. Additionally, a further 35 SU-76Ms were gifted by the Soviet Union in September 1947.

While these two countries were nominally friendly toward each other, the Soviet tank shipment quality was less so. The majority of the tanks received lacked any kind of documentation of their previous use or their mechanical life. Information, such as their age or usage, was also unknown. Some even had completely unusable engines. In the case of the SU-76, they appeared to be in much better shape, especially the second batch, which had undergone a general overhaul and received new parts.

While the JNA was still in its early development phase, political tensions between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union and, more precisely, between Tito and Stalin, began to arise. Stalin wanted to impose more direct Soviet control over Yugoslavia, something that Tito fiercely objected to. This led to the famous so-called Tito-Stalin Split in 1948, which basically isolated Yugoslavia from the Eastern Bloc. This meant that all further shipment of military equipment and vehicles was discontinued.

The first SU-76M began to arrive in 1946 with the last vehicles arriving in September the same year. Source:


The JNA did not attempt any major modifications on the SU-76M. In the photographs of them, the 7.62 mm DT machine gun usually mounted inside the vehicle can instead be seen placed on an improvised mount on top of the main gun barrel. The available sources do not specify why this was done. Given that one of the crew would have had to go out to operate it and expose themselves to enemy fire, this would have been a questionable design choice. In addition, this crew member that operated the outside-positioned machine gun could be injured from the main gun’s recoil. A possible explanation for this outside machine gun position is that it was used for crew training. Possibly to preserve main gun ammunition, the machine gun may have been used to simulate the firing of the 7.62 cm gun. It is not clear on how many SU-76Ms such modifications were made on, but given the available photographic evidence, at least two. Both of these had completely different mounts. One was placed above the gun, while on the other, the machine gun was placed above the protected recoil cylinder.

A DT machine gun is placed above the SU-76M’s 7.62 cm gun barrel. Source:
This version had the machine gun placed above the fully enclosed upper recoil cylinder on the SU-76M. Source: Magazine Arsenal 65/2012
The reasons why the machine gun was mounted on the gun are unclear, but it was likely intended for training purposes. Source:

In Service

The first available SU-76Ms were grouped into two Mehanizovana Artiljerijska Diviziona (Eng. Mechanized Artillery Division/Battalion). The 1st Tank Division received 12 SU-76Ms while the 2nd Tank Division, which had US-supplied 105 mm armed M7 vehicles in its inventory, received only 8 SU-76Ms. The JNA was quite aware that the SU-76Ms were outdated vehicles, and their combat value was deemed insufficient. Given that nothing else was available, they remained in use. As a result of the rising tensions with the Eastern Bloc, the SU-76M was used in a series of military exercises that simulated attacks from the east. As the war with the Soviet Union did not occur, the JNA’s SU-76Ms would never see action. They were occasionally used in military parades, though.

In its short service life with the JNA, the SU-76Ms were only used in military exercises and parades. Source:

In 1950s, through the MDAP (Mutual Defence Aid Program) that Yugoslavia signed with the Western Allies, plenty of new military equipment was obtained between 1951 and 1958. This included 240 M18 Hellcats and 399 M36 Jacksons. As these were deemed far superior, the SU-76M was quickly removed from frontline units. By 1957, due to wear and lack of spare parts, the number of operational SU-76M was reduced to 46. Some 20 more vehicles, of which only 4 were operational, were present in reserve.

Lack of spare parts often leads to the cannibalization of damaged vehicles. At the same time, the JNA’s officials requested that a study be made about whether it was possible and worthwhile to maintain these vehicles at all. The remaining 46 vehicles were in a such a poor state of repair that their further use was questionable. Some attempts were made to locally produce spare parts, but this proved to be too costly and was quickly abandoned. In the end, it was decided that due to their poor combat effectiveness and mechanical wear down, to remove these vehicles from the JNA’s inventory.

The M-60 Project

With the JNA, the SU-76M saw only limited service. Nevertheless, some elements of its design, such as the suspension, would later be reused for the M-60 armored personnel carrier. It was developed by the Yugoslav military industry and pressed into service in the late 1960s. While it too proved to be a flawed design, it was an important vehicle for gaining valuable experience in designing such a vehicle. With further improvements, this eventually would lead to the creation of the much more successful M-80.

The M-60 armor personnel carrier reused the suspension of the old SU-76M vehicle. Source:

The Surviving JNA SU-76M

Not surprisingly, due to its extensive use and limited numbers, only one JNA SU-76M has survived to this day. It is now displayed at the Military Barracks Kozara, in Bosnia.

The only surviving JNA SU-76M is located in Kozara military barracks. Interestingly, next to it is the rare German SD.Kfz.251/22 armed with the 7,5 cm PaK 40 gun, which was also briefly operated by the JNA in the years following the end of the Second World War. Source:


The SU-76M was simply used by the JNA until a proper replacement was found. It was quickly delegated to second-line units before being completely phased out after only a decade in service. Most notably, some of its design elements would be reused for the later M-60 APC project.

SU-76in Yugoslav Service. Illustration by Godzilla.

SU-76M Technical specifications

Crew 4 (driver, gunner, loader, and commander)
Weight 10.5 t
Dimensions Length 4.9 m, Width 2.7 m, Height 2.41 m
Engine Two GAZ 202 70 hp engines
Speed 40 km/h (road)
Range 320 km (road), 1900 (off-road)
Armament One 7.62 ZIS-3
Secondary Armament 7.62 mm DT machine gun
Armor 10-35 mm


B. B. Dimitrijević and D. Savić (2011) Oklopne jedinice na Jugoslovenskom ratištu 1941-1945, Institut za savremenu istoriju, Beograd.
B. B. Dimitrijević (2010) Modernizacija i Intervencija Jugoslovenske Oklopne Jedinice 1945-2006, Institut za savremenu istoriju
D. Predoević (2008) Oklopna vozila i oklopne postrojbe u drugom svjetskom ratu u Hrvatskoj, Digital Point Tiskara
D. Nešić (2008) Naoružanje drugog svetsko rata-SSSR, Beograd
Magazine Arsenal 65/2012

Cold War Yugoslav Armor WW2 Yugoslav Partisan Armor of Italian Origin

AB41 in Yugoslav Partisan Service

Yugoslav Partisans/Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1943-1953)
Medium Armored Car – At Least 40+ Operated

When Italian forces retreated from Yugoslavia in September 1943 after the Italian Armistice, they left plenty of weapons and armored vehicles for the Partisans to take. Armored vehicles were especially valued by the Partisans, which previously did not have any in significant numbers. Among these were a number of AB41s which would be used extensively during the war. The Partisan AB41s that did survive the war would remain in use up to the early 1950s before finally being replaced by modern equipment.

The author would especially like to thank Arturo Giusti for providing pictures and information for this article.

A Partisan AB41 after the war. It belonged to the last production batch, as evident from the 20 liters can supports and the smoke grenade box on the rear side. Note that only the spare tire was of Italian origin, and the other ones were of civilian origin. Source:

The Italian AB41

The Italian AB41 medium reconnaissance armored car was the second and most successful model of a heterogeneous family of armored cars called AB, short for AutoBlinda (English: Armored Car).

It was an evolution from the AB40, which was developed in late 1937 for the Italian Regio Esercito (English Royal Army) and Polizia dell’Africa Italiana (English: Police of Italian Africa) and entered production in 1940. This model was armed with only three medium machine guns and could not support the troops with adequate firepower. For this reason, in 1941, Ansaldo engineers decided to mount the Torretta Modello 1941 (English: Turret Model 1941) one-man turret armed with a 20 mm L.65 Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935 and a coaxial medium machine gun, plus another medium machine gun in the rear. The new armored car entered production in March 1941.

The AB41 armored car in the North African desert in 1941. Source:

The new 20 mm gun had enough anti-tank capabilities to be able to counter almost any enemy armored car or light tank of the early war, with the Armor Piercing rounds penetrating 38 mm of the vertical armored plate at 100 meters.

The new AB41 had an increased weight of 7.52 tonnes compared to the 6.4 tonnes of the AB40. The FIAT-SPA engineers, the factories that were responsible for producing the engines, slightly increased the engine power for the AB41, from the 78 hp of the FIAT-SPA ABM 1 to the 88 hp of the FIAT-SPA ABM 2. Thanks to this engine, the armored car had a maximum road speed of 78.38 km/h and, with its 195 liters petrol tank, it had a range of 400 km. In total, the Regio Esercito produced 644 AB41 armored cars until 8th September 1943, when the Kingdom of Italy made public its Armistice with the Allied forces.

Axis Invasion of the Balkans

After the unsuccessful invasion of Greece by Italian forces, Benito Mussolini was forced to ask for help from his German ally. Adolf Hitler agreed to provide assistance, fearing a possible Allied attack through the Balkans would reach Romania and its vital oil fields. On the path of the German advance towards Greece stood Yugoslavia, whose government initially agreed to join the Axis side. This agreement was short-lived, as the Yugoslav government was overthrown by an anti-Axis pro-Allied military coup at the end of March 1941. Hitler immediately gave an order for the preparation of the invasion of Yugoslavia. The war that began on 6th April 1941 was a short one and ended with a Yugoslav defeat and the division of its territory between the Axis powers.

Map of the partition of Yugoslavia after the invasion. Slovenia was divided between Germany, Italy, and Hungary. The Croatian puppet state was given to most of western Yugoslavia, including Bosnia. Macedonia was divided between Italy, which also took Montenegro and Bulgaria. Northern Serbia was occupied by Hungary. What was left of Serbia was placed under German occupation. Source: Wiki

Autoblinda AB41 in Yugoslavia

Prior to the collapse of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, its army attempted to acquire modern armored vehicles. Despite having a history of political tension with its neighbor, Italy, the Yugoslav Royal Army purchased weapons and equipment from them. This also included an order for 54 AB40 armored cars. Due to the outbreak of the war, nothing came from this.

An early model of the AB40, the predecessor of the AB41. It was armed with three machine guns and was built in limited numbers. Source:

Following the partition of the Yugoslav territories, a general uprising led by two resistance movements caused chaos in the ranks of the occupiers. By 1942, these two groups became quite effective in carrying out raids against Italian supply lines. In order to provide sufficient protection, the Italian Army began reinforcing its units in Yugoslavia with various armored vehicles, most of which were improvised armored trucks and Carri Armati L6/40 light tanks, but also some AB41 armored cars. The use of the AB41 in Yugoslavia is generally poorly documented, but what is sure is that they were used operationally up to 1943.

Italian AB41 in Yugoslavia. Source:

In Communist Partisan Hands

Following the Italian capitulation in September 1943, the German Wehrmacht launched Fall Achse (English: Operation Axis) in the hope of capturing as many Italian weapons and territories as possible. During this operation, over 20,000 Italian soldiers were killed and over a million were disarmed and captured. The Germans also captured 977 Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs), of which about 200 were AB41 armored cars. They were not the only ones to do so. After the collapse of Italian armed forces in Yugoslavia, despite German attempts to prevent Italian weapons and vehicles from falling into the hands of the Partisans, many of them did. In part thanks to their quick response, the Partisans managed to acquire a number of Italian armored vehicles. Which exact vehicles and models were captured is unknown. There were plenty of AB41s captured intact, in some cases delivered by Italian soldiers that did not want to join the Germans and joined the Partisan forces or as a barter for free passage.

Following the Italian capitulation managed to liberate a huge portion of Yugoslav territories previously occupied by the enemy. Source:
Partisans captured AB41 after the Italian capitulation. It has the former Italian Royal Army plate ‘Regio Esercito 576B’. The front tire was a Pirelli Tipo ‘Artiglio’ continental tire, the spare one was a Pirelli Tipo ‘Libia’ for sandy soils, while the rear one was a civilian one. Source: B. D. Dimitrijević and D. Savić Oklopne Jedinice Na Jugoslovenskom Ratištu

These were pressed into service by the Partisans who were active in Croatia and Slovenia. The Partisans from Slovenia managed to capture over 90 armored vehicles of various types from the Italians, including at least 15 AB41 armored cars. The Partisans never used these as a unified fighting force. Instead, these were allocated to various units depending on the needs. Usually, during an attack on enemy fortified positions, a platoon that consisted of two tanks, two AB41 armored cars, and one armored truck would be employed. The tanks and the armored cars would use their firepower and armor to suppress the enemy defenders (usually Slovenian collaborators), which often lacked any form of anti-tank weapons. As the defenders were occupied, the armored truck filled with Partisan fighters would storm the enemy positions and attack from the rear. In Dalmatia (Croatia), the Partisan First Proletarian Division operated two AB41 during October 1943. Most of these vehicles would be lost during the German counter-attack which failed to destroy the Partisans but inflicted severe losses on them.

The few surviving AB41s that did survive were hidden by the Partisans. These would be put back into action after July 1944.
Three AB41s were used in September 1943 to reinforce the Tank Battalion, which was under the direct control of the Partisan High Command stationed in Croatia. Two were allocated to the 1st Company and one to the 2nd Company. For unspecified reasons, these saw action for the first time in January 1944, during the liberation of the small village of Oštarija around Lika. According to the original Partisan plan, the two AB41s were to provide fire support to the infantry from the 8th Kordunaška Division. The defending Croatian garrison was well defended inside brick bunkers. With heavy machine-gun fire, they managed to pin down the Partisan infantry, which could not advance. The two AB41s took the initiative and towed two anti-tank guns to storm the enemy line. They managed to break in and the guns began shooting at the bunkers. It is not clear in the sources who operated the anti-tank guns, whether it was the crews of the armored cars or if they carried additional soldiers. It seems probable that these were operated by the crews of the armored car themselves due to the small space inside the vehicles, which did not permit the transportation of other soldiers and anti-tank ammunition inside. Regardless of this, the enemy bunkers were quickly taken out with close fire from these guns. Seeing their defense crumbling, the remaining defenders tried to retreat but were cut down by the Partisans. From 14th to 16th January, these AB41s were used in various reconnaissance patrols and often clashed with the enemy.
On the 15th, an AB41 was sent on a reconnaissance mission near Ogulin. During the mission, the vehicle came across a German column that did not attack it, presumably thinking it was their own armor. The Partisans opened fire at close range and drove away. Unfortunately for the Partisans, they ran into three German tanks, two Somua S35s and one Panzer II. The AB41’s gun was unable to defeat the enemy tanks, which returned fire. Seeing the odds stacked against them, the Partisans once again drove off. On the 16th, one AB41 ambushed a group of Germans, capturing four mortars and one anti-tank rifle. The following day, a German aircraft spotted the Partisan AB armored cars and dropped a few bombs that missed them. In May, the Germans launched a large offensive that forced the retreating Partisans to hide their armored vehicles, including the AB.

In May 1944, the Germans launched an airborne raid on Drvar, which was undertaken to capture the Partisan leader, Josip Broz Tito. The Partisans’ defenders had one AB41 armored car which did not see action, as it was destroyed by a German Junkers Ju 87 ‘Stuka’ dive bomber. Ultimately, the operation failed, as Tito managed to escape. After a month in hiding, the AFVs were once again put to use. Given the fear of another German airborne attack, the Partisans attempted to keep one AB41 armored car and two light tanks as a security force for the Partisan High Command.

Despite being available in limited numbers, the AB41 was extensively used by the Partisans up to the end of the war. This particular vehicle had two Pirelli Tipo ‘Artiglio’ tires and a Pirelli Tipo ‘Libia’ as a spare tire. Source:

In August, Croatian forces attempted to storm the Partisan-held airfield at Krbovsko Polje, which was defended by one AB41 armored car and two light tanks. The AB41 proved vital for the defense of this airfield. Initially, it managed to fool the attackers, who believed it was operated by the Germans. In the end, due to the enemy’s superior numbers, the Partisans had to abandon this position. The AB41 was also vital at this point, providing cover for the retreating Partisans.

In November, the AB41s were successfully used against the Croatian and German defenders of Cazin. Thanks to their speed, they often managed to outflank the defenses, inflicting severe losses. When the town was liberated, of 500 defenders present during the battle, some 200 were claimed to have been killed thanks to the AB41s.

On 14th December 1944, a lone Partisan AB41 managed to single-handedly hold a 3 km wide front line during the Axis attempts to recapture Lika. As the Partisans lacked any infantry reinforcements, they sent one AB41 that was available. During the heavy day of fighting, it managed to hold back the enemy, firing some 410 20 mm rounds in addition to 1,400 rounds of the machine gun’s ammunition. The following day, its crew managed to maintain the same success in keeping the enemy at bay, spending some 540 rounds for the main gun plus 1,700 rounds of machine gun ammunition. This action, even though slightly dubious in its claims, gives an excellent idea of how easy the vehicle was to maintain. More than a year after its capture, with no spare parts for the armored car and cannon, the untrained Partisans were able to use this AB41 with excellent results. The vehicle would be actively used up to late December when it was withdrawn from the first line for repair. It would see action again in February 1945.
Due to the bitter winter, there was limited fighting up to February 1945. On 11th February, Croatian and German forces took back some Partisan-held territories. The following day, the Partisans mustered for a counter-attack, which was to be supported with one AB41. The fighting was heavy and the AB41 armored car was hit by an anti-tank rifle, killing one and badly wounding two more crew members. Despite this, the rear driver managed to drive the AB to safety. On 13th February, a new crew was ready and the repaired AB41 was put back into action. Most of February and March saw heavy use of the Partisan-operated AB armored cars. During the fighting at Bihać, one of them was lost. The crew of this vehicle was attacking an enemy bunker inside the town, but they failed to notice a second bunker close by. The defenders used a Panzerfaust to destroy the Partisan AB41. One crew member was killed while the remaining three managed to evacuate from the knocked-out AB41 in time. One more AB41 was badly damaged on 8th April 1944, with two crew members being wounded. In May, the Partisans managed to capture more than 20 AB armored cars from the retreating Axis forces. Due to poor Partisan documentation, the precise number is impossible to know.

One of the dozen or so captured AB41s during the Partisan advance in May 1945. On this vehicle, all the tires were of the Pirelli Tipo ‘Artiglio’ type. The antenna was removed from this vehicle for unknown reasons. Note the white painted letters on the superstructure and the improvised 20 liters can support the rear part. Source: B. D. Dimitrijević and D. Savić Oklopne Jedinice Na Jugoslovenskom Ratištu
A train with various captured enemy equipment, including one AB41 armored car. Source:

After the War

Following the end of the war, the new Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija or JNA (English: Yugoslav People’s Army) used the captured ABs for crew training and fighting the remnants of the defeated enemy that were still present in Yugoslavia. These would remain in service up to 1953, before finally being replaced with more modern equipment.

An AB41 next to an Sd.Kfz.251/22 half-track armed with the 7.5 cm PaK 40 during military exercises in 1951. Source:
In the years after the war, the AB41s would often be seen on military parades, like during this one, held in Belgrade in October 1945. The left vehicle had two original Pirelli Tipo ‘Artiglio’ tires and two boxes mounted on the front fenders instead of the 20 liters cans. Source:


The AB41 proved highly effective armored vehicles that saw service with the Partisans. The type was operated in limited numbers but would often be employed in the heaviest of fighting. Even in the hands of the inexperienced Partisans, it proved to be a great armored vehicle even in the role of a support vehicle rather than a reconnaissance vehicle.

The surviving vehicles would remain in service sometime after the war, providing the new tank recruits with the necessary initial experience and training in operating such vehicles. Unfortunately, despite their role in this resistance movement, no Partisan AB41 is known to have survived to this day.

AB41 captured and later deployed by the People’s Liberation Army of Yugoslavia, 1944.
AB41 of the Yugoslav People’s Army. Illustrations by the illustrious Godzilla funded by our Patreon Campaign.

AB41 specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 5.20 x 1.92 x 2.48 m
Total Weight, Battle Ready 7.52 tons
Crew 4 (front driver, rear driver, machine gunner/loader, and vehicle commander/gunner)
Propulsion FIAT-SPA 6-cylinder petrol, 88 hp with 195 liters tank
Speed Road Speed: 80 km/h
Off-Road Speed: 50 km/h
Range 400 km
Armament Cannone-Mitragliera Breda 20/65 Modello 1935 (456 rounds) and Two Breda Modello 1938 8 x 59 mm medium machine guns (1992 rounds)
Armor 8.5 mm Hull
Turret Front: 40 mm
Sides: 30 mm
Rear: 15 mm
In service with the Yugoslav forces about 40


Cold War Yugoslav Armor Has Own Video

Baterija Raketa Obala-More “BROM”, 4K51 Rubezh in Yugoslav Service

Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Successor States (1979-2007)
Anti-Ship Coastal Defense Missile System – 10 Purchased

During the 1960s, the Yugoslav Navy (Jugoslovenska Ratna Mornarica) became interested in Soviet anti-ship missiles for installation on its ships. Based on experiences with these weapon systems, nearly two decades later, the Yugoslav Navy acquired 10 4K51 ‘Rubezh’ coastal defense systems from the Soviet Union. These vehicles and their service in Yugoslavia are generally unknown and very poorly documented, even though they would see use for nearly three decades until finally being phased out of service in 2007.

The 4K51 Rubezh. Source:

In Yugoslavia 

The story of how the Yugoslav Navy got its first 4K51 Rubezh vehicles is actually related to the acquisition of 10 Project 205-type missile boats between 1965 and 1969. The armament of these vessels consisted of four 2.5 tonne Soviet P-15 ‘Termit’ anti-ship guided missiles. These carried a 454 kg hollow charge warhead out to a range of 40 kilometres. Additional Soviet naval missile launchers of this type would be purchased from 1976 to 1988 for the needs of Yugoslav Navy. They were mounted on ships like the Rade Končar-class.

The Project 205 missile boats were armed with four P-15 missiles. 10 ships were purchased by the Yugoslav Navy. Source: WIki

Following the experience gained while operating those Soviet anti-ship missiles, the Yugoslav Navy military officials were becoming interested in acquiring a land-based system armed with the same missile. One reason was to supplement the firepower of the coastal artillery, which was mostly based on older Second World War artillery and anti-aircraft guns, such as the German 88 mm Flak. For this reason, in the late 1970s, a purchase agreement for 10 4K51 Rubezh vehicles was signed with the Soviets.

As these vehicles began to arrive, they received a five-digit designation. Somewhat confusingly, these five-digit designations were not given as the vehicles arrived, but instead by their year of production. For example, the vehicle that was built in 1978 was marked as 22764, while the ones built-in 1979 were 22761, 22762, and 22763. Vehicles built in 1980 were marked as 22765, 22766, and 22768. The one produced in 1981 was 22767, and the last two vehicles built in 1983 were marked as 22759 and 22760.

These vehicles were kept under high secrecy by the Yugoslav Navy for some time. For these reasons, their use and pictures of them from this period are quite difficult to find. Their first public appearance was during the last Yugoslav People Army parade held in Belgrade in 1985.

The last JNA (Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija) Parade in Belgrade 1985.

One of the first photographs ever taken of this vehicle in service with the Yugoslav Navy. Source: A. Radić Arsenal 86

The Soviet 4K51 Rubezh 

During the late 1960s, the Soviets had the coastal mobile missile system “Redut”. It was basically an 8×8 wheeled chassis armed with one P-35 anti-ship guided missile which carried a 1,000 kg warhead and had a maximum operational range of 450 km. This vehicle was intended to destroy enemy ships at long ranges. However, the Soviet Navy wanted a new missile system that would be capable of engaging enemy ships at closer ranges, but also be able to carry at least two missiles. The new armament of this new vehicle consisted of two P-15M ‘Termit’ tactical anti-ship missiles. The large 8×8 MAZ-543 truck chassis was chosen as the carrier of the system. This new vehicle received the 4K51 Rubezh designation. The 4K51 was adopted into service by the Soviet Navy in late 1970s. Despite being newly designed, it saw use with many Communist countries around the world (Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Cuba, etc.), including the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The 4K51 Rubezh in Romanian Service. Source:


In Yugoslav service, the 4K51 Rubezh was generally known as BROM, Baterija Raketa Obala-More (English: Missile Battery Coast-Sea). This was actually the name given to the unit which operated these vehicles. Why this designation was used instead of the original one is unfortunately not mentioned in the sources.


The BROMs were intended to be used as a “deterrence of aggression”, as described by the Yugoslav Navy. Their role was to act as a defense screen against any possible enemy invasion of the Adriatic coast.

The basic unit equipped with these vehicles was the Missile Battery. This battery consisted of only one vehicle, with two batteries forming a Missile Squadron, numbered from 201 to 205. These were then distributed to the islands and coastlines of the Adriatic sea in modern-day Croatia and Montenegro. The 201st was positioned on the isle of Mali Lošinj, 202nd on Visu, 203rd at Lastovu, and the last, the 204th, on Radovićima. The vehicles from the 205th Missile Squadron were stationed at Duvilama and were used for crew training and, if needed, as replacements.

A BROM during the 1984 military exercises. Source: A. Radić Arsenal 86


The BROM was divided into a few different sections, which included the chassis, the command control cabin, and the rear positioned missile launcher.

Side view of the BROM. The rear positioned (to the left of the picture) missile launcher, the command cabin (center), and the front driver compartment are clearly visible. Source:

The chassis

The BROM was built using a modified chassis of the MAZ-543 (and the slightly improved MAZ-543M) 8×8 wheel truck. This vehicle had been developed by MAZ in the early 1960s and entered mass production in 1965.  It was powered by a forward mounted 525 [email protected],100 rpm  D12A-525A 38.9 liter V12 diesel engine. Despite its large size, the MAZ-543 had excellent off-road capabilities. It could reach a maximum speed of 60 to 65 km/h and 25-30 km/h cross-country. The operational range was some 625 to 635 km.

The large MAZ-543 8×8 wheel truck.


The main armament of the BROM consisted of two P-15M Termit missiles. These included the P-20 and P-21 sub-versions of the P-15M. The difference was that the P-20 was guided using radar, while the P-21 was guided using an infra-red signal. The BROM’s missiles had a length of 6.56 m, a diameter of 78 cm and a wingspan of 2.5 m. Their initial launch mass was some 2,523 kg.

During launch, the missiles were powered by a smaller auxiliary solid fuel rocket engine which had a thrust of 10 tons. After only 1.3 seconds, this auxiliary engine would be cast-off. The main engine of the P-15M missiles would begin to work half a second after launch. At the same time, two smaller wings would open. The main engine was fueled by a mix of TG-02 liquid fuel in combination with AK-20K nitric acid. The P-15M missiles could reach a maximum speed of 1,100 km/h (0.9 Mach). This speed could be achieved at a sea height of 25 to 50 m or 250 m over hard soil. The warhead consisted of 513 kg of explosives. The Soviets could also arm these missiles with a 15 kiloton nuclear warhead. The Yugoslavs did not have nuclear warheads. The missiles could be launched one after another, at an interval of between seven to nine seconds.

A P-15M during launching. Source
Initially, the P-15M was powered by an auxiliary engine which would be discarded after launch.
Shortly after launch, the secondary engine would be discarded and the missiles would be powered by its main engine until it reached the target. Source:

The maximum firing range of BROM missiles was about 80 km. This could be slightly increased up to 90 km with a reduced probability of hitting the target. The minimum operational range of these missiles depended on the altitude at which the BROM was located during firing. For example, at an altitude of 150 m, the minimum range was about 8 km. At 600 m, it was 18 km and at 800 m it was 22 km. Ideally, in order to achieve the best possible chance of hitting enemy targets, the BROM had to be as close to the coast as possible. If that was not the case for various reasons, the maximum distance from the coast had to be less than 19 km. The P-15M missiles could hit enemy targets with a speed of up to 80 knots and with a wind speed of 20 m/s.

Both missiles were stored in the large fully enclosed missile launcher bay (KT-161), which was placed to the rear of the vehicle. It consisted of two fully enclosed, pentagonal shaped launch bays. Inside of each of them, a ‘U’ shaped missile ramp was placed. In front and to the back of the launchers, four pyramid shaped cap covers were placed. During firing, these would be opened, moving to the top of the missile launcher compartment. In addition, there were several smaller inspection hatches across the launcher compartment. The firing missile point was actually located to the rear of the vehicle. When the vehicle was combat ready, depending on the combat situation, the missile launcher compartment could be rotated 110° either to the left or right side. The maximum elevation of this missile launcher was 20°. The dimension of the missile launcher bay length was 7 m, while the width was 1.8 m.

Close up view of the BROM missile launcher. Source: A. Radić Arsenal 86
Due to the P-15M’s heavy weight of some 2.5 tonnes, loading these missiles required extra equipment. Usually, a crane and a support platform was needed to effectively place the missiles in their housing. Source: Unknown

When reaching the designated area of deployment, the BROM needed some 2 to 5 minute to be combat ready. It depended on the experience training of the crew, but also on the geographical characteristics of the terrain.

Command control cabin

The command control cabin was located behind the front driver’s cabin. Four crew members were needed to effectively operate the missile system. They were tasked with operating a number of different systems, including pre-launch preparation, inspection of missile control systems, missile firing control, vehicle inclination measurement systems, communication equipment, etc.

For acquiring targets, the 3Ts-25 Harpun type radar was used. It was located above the command control room. When preparing for action, the radar antenna would be raised to a height of some 7.3 m with the help of a hydraulic arm. The maximum effective range of this radar was around 100 km when the vehicle was at an altitude of some 600 m. The BROM was fully capable of finding and firing at targets on its own. Depending on the combat situation, it could be linked to other external radar units.

During deployment, the radar would be raised up to 7 m in height with the help of a hydraulic arm. Source: A. Radić Arsenal 86

Power to the command control cabin was provided by a 100 hp strong turbo gas engine. In addition, there were two 32 kW direct and one 22 kW alternating current generators. As a backup power source, there was an additional direct current generator. With these, the BROM could effectively work on its own power up to a maximum of two hours.


The BROM had a crew of five which consisted of the commander, the driver, who was also the launcher operator, the electrician, the radar operator and the radar technician. The precise crew positions inside the command control cabin are not mentioned in the sources.

Crew inside the BROM command control cabin. Source: A. Radić Arsenal 86

Service during the Yugoslav Wars 

During 1991, the disintegration of Yugoslavia was becoming a reality. In order to avoid losing the BROM vehicles, the Yugoslav Navy began an evacuation. The 201st and 205th Missile Squadrons were evacuated to Boka Kotorska (Montenegro) at the end of 1991. The 202nd and 203rd were evacuated during May 1992. The remaining 204th had been stationed in Montenegro prior to the war. One vehicle (22762) could not be recovered, as it was awaiting repairs at Šibenik at the time of the outbreak of the war and was captured by Croatian Forces. Luckily for the Yugoslav Navy, its vital electronic components and weapons were not present when it was captured. Its electronic components were also relocated to Montenegro and served as spare parts for the remaining vehicles. The precise fate of the Croatian captured vehicle is sadly not clear. Once all nine vehicles were relocated to Montenegro, these protected the newly created Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’s (Savezna Republika Jugoslavija) coastline from an anticipated NATO intervention that was expected to occur during summer of 1992, but which never came.

During 1994, the BROM units were reorganized, placing them all into the 110th Coast Missile Brigade (Obalska Raketna Brigada). The Brigade was divided into two Squadrons, with the first having five and the second four vehicles. In 1996, the BROMs were used during the ‘Laser 21’ military exercise. During these exercises, older torpedo boats were used as target practise.

Due to international military sanctions, the acquisition of new spare parts for the BROM was impossible. While smaller repairs could be done by the Brigade’s own mechanics, major overhauls had to be completed at the repair institute in Banja Luka. Some six vehicles received a major overhaul during 1998, with two more in early 1999.

During the 1999 war against NATO

In 1999, the tense situation in Kosovo and Metohija between the Serbian and Albanian population worsened to the point that the international community felt the need to intervene. The government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia refused to allow foreign soldiers onto its territory. A war between Yugoslavia and NATO officially started on 24th March 1999. NATO Air Forces began bombing military targets like airfields, barracks and industrial centers, but civilian objectives were also targeted.

During this war, 8 BROM vehicles were fully operational. The ninth vehicle was under maintenance, awaiting repairs to its engine. These 8 were divided into two combat groups, with the task of preventing any possible NATO amphibious assault. One group was tasked with defending the Luštica Peninsula and its surroundings. The second group defended Petrovac-Bar. Some vehicles from this group were pulled back further inland.

Any reconnaissance and use of radar equipment had to be undertaken with great care due to NATO Air Supremacy. In general, the NATO ships that were patrolling in the Mediterranean did not come closer to 100 km from the Yugoslav shore. There was only one incident, when a NATO ship approached the shore accompanying a large non-military tanker. The crews of the BROM did not fire their missiles in order to avoid hitting the civilian ship. Despite its large size and huge NATO aerial advantage, no BROM vehicle was lost during the 1999 war.

Yugoslav soldiers posing in front of a BROM.
The BROM was a huge vehicle and it was difficult to conceal. Despite its size and NATO’s air dominance, none were lost in combat during the Yugoslav Wars. Source:

Final fate

In the years after the 1999 war, the condition of the technical equipment of the Yugoslav Army was generally poor due to a lack of funds. The BROMs were gradually becoming a hindrance, slowly losing their military importance. In early 2004, Serbian and Montenegrin Army officials decided to maintain only four such vehicles in operational use for the defense of the Adriatic coast. The remaining five were to be temporarily stored. These four were allocated to the 108th Coast Defence Brigade. To compensate for the reduced number of operational BROMs, the 108th Coast Defence Brigade was reinforced with towed artillery. Due to the limited budget and huge maintenance cost, seven of the vehicles were declared surplus equipment.

In March of 2004, it was decided to sell all BROM vehicles abroad if possible. A firm called Cofis Export was responsible for organizing this sale. Shortly after that, a contract was concluded with the Egyptian Navy, which bought five fully repaired and equipped vehicles. These were shipped to Egypt the following year. This shipment also contained a number of spare P-20 and P-21 rockets.

One of five BROMs prior to being shipped to Egypt. Source: A. Radić Arsenal 86

By 2006, the remaining two operational BROMs, in addition to the two vehicles that were stored at that time, were retired from service. This was done mainly due to huge financial cuts to the Army’s budget. That same year, Serbia and Montenegro split up, which essentially meant the end of the coastal defence forces, as Serbia no longer had a coast. In 2007, the remaining two operational vehicles were also sold to Egypt. Only two non-operational vehicles (22767 and 22768) were left, which were placed in storage at Lepetinima. If they will ever be put on display in a museum or scrapped is unknown.


The Yugoslav Army was always interested in acquiring new and modern equipment. While not always successful, they did manage to acquire the advanced BROM system in the late 1970s. They were kept under great secrecy. Following the collapse of Yugoslavia, they remained in service with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. While this was an obscure and less known vehicle operated by the Yugoslav Navy, it nonetheless served for a long amount of time, covering the Adriatic coast from potential invasion.

Yugoslav Brom  in the Egyptian service
Yugoslav 4K51 Rubezh known as BROM Baterija Raketa Obala-More
Another Brom in the Egyptian service with simpler camouflage


Dimensions (L-W-H) 14.2 m, 2.97 m and 4.05 m
Total weight 40.1 tonnes
Crew 5 (Commander, driver/ launcher operator, electrician operator, radar operator and radar technician)
Propulsion  D12A-525A 520 hp engine
Speed (cross-country) 60-65 km/h,  25-30 km/h
Operational range  625-635 km
Armament Two P-15M missile launchers



Cold War Yugoslav Armor Has Own Video

ZSU-57-2 in Yugoslav Service

Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Successor States (1963-2006)
Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Vehicle – 120-125 Operated

In a search to equip its army with modern anti-aircraft vehicles, the JNA (Jugoslovenska narodna armija, Yugoslav People’s Army) High Command decided to negotiate the purchase of over 100 copies of the Soviet ZSU-57-2. These vehicles arrived in the 1960s and would be used to equip armored and tank brigades. The ZSU-57-2 would see action during the chaotic Yugoslav wars in the 1990s. A few vehicles would remain in service up to 2005 in the Serbian Army (Vojska Srbije) and 2006 in the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Oružane snage Bosne i Hercegovine) before finally being retired from service.


After the Second World War, the long process of building and rearming the new Yugoslav People’s Army was underway. Despite attempts to develop domestic tanks, this was not possible, so the JNA was forced to acquire new equipment from abroad. Initially, the Soviet Union was the main supplier. However, during the so-called Tito-Stalin split that started in 1948, the JNA turned to Western countries and managed to sign the MDAP (Mutual Defence Aid Program) with the United States. Thanks to MDAP, the JNA received, during 1951-1958, plenty of new military equipment, including a small number of M15 anti-aircraft half-tracks. The JNA also made a few of its own anti-aircraft vehicles by mounting captured German anti-aircraft guns, mostly 20 mm ones, on any available trucks. While the M15 was a properly designed military vehicle, it was still outdated by the fifties. The truck versions were simple modifications and, in reality, of little combat value as they had no armor protection nor sophisticated tracking sights. The truck version appears to have been used only in military parades.

For nearly a decade, these vehicles were the only mobile anti-aircraft vehicles available in the JNA. For this reason, JNA officials were desperate to find more modern anti-aircraft vehicles. As the political tensions with the Soviet Union began to relax after Stalin’s death in 1953, the possibility of purchasing new Soviet military equipment emerged again. For this reason, during the early sixties, the JNA managed to buy over 100 Soviet ZSU-57-2 anti-aircraft vehicles. Ironically, in their desperation to find more modern anti-aircraft vehicles, the JNA actually bought a vehicle that was already becoming obsolete even during its introduction to the Soviet army.

A column of JNA trucks armed with pairs of 20 mm cannons. Source: Unknown
This version was equipped with a German 2 cm drilling MG 151. Source: Unknown
For some years, the M15 was the most ‘modern’ mobile AA vehicle in the JNA arsenal, until it was replaced with the Soviet ZSU-57-2. Source:

Soviet ZSU-57-2

The ZSU-57-2 was designed by the artillery designer Vasiliy Grabin shortly after World War II. The first prototype was completed in the summer of 1950 and the production began in 1955. ZSU stands for Zenitnaya Samokhodnaya Ustanovka (anti-aircraft self-propelled mount) and 57-2 stands for the fact that it was armed with two 57 mm cannons. This vehicle was built using a modified chassis of the new T-54 tank. The modification of the chassis included reducing the road wheels per side to four and using lighter armor.

On top of the T-54 chassis, a new open-top turret was added. This turret was powered by an electric motor with hydraulic speed gears. The turret traverse speed was 36° per second. Inside this turret, two 57 mm S-68 cannons (L76.6) were mounted. Each cannon had a rate of fire of 240 rounds per minute. For these guns, both fragmentation and armor-piercing ammunition were available. The ammunition load was 300 rounds, with 176 rounds being stored inside the turret and the remaining in the hull. The effective range, when used against flying targets, was 6 km. To efficiently operate the vehicle, six crew members were needed: commander, gunner, loader, driver, and two sight adjusters.

The ZSU-57-2 was powered by a V-54 12-cylinder diesel engine providing 520 hp. Despite the weight of 28 tonnes, thanks to the strong engine, the maximum speed was 50 km/h. With a fuel load of 850 liters, the operational range was 420 km.

The ZSU-57-2 had serious firepower that could easily destroy any aerial target but had many issues. The greatest weaknesses were the lack of modern range-finding and radar equipment, the impossibility of engaging targets at night, the lack of protection for its crew (being open-topped), and low ammunition count. While many would be sold to other Warsaw Pact countries, like East Germany, Romania, and Poland, its service within the Soviet Army was limited. By the end of the fifties, it was mostly replaced with the ZSU-23-4.

The Soviet ZSU-57-2 Source: Wikimedia Commons

In JNA Service

In October 1962, a JNA military delegation was sent to the Soviet Union to negotiate the purchase of new military supplies and equipment. During this visit, the Soviets presented the ZSU-57-2 to the Yugoslav delegation. The delegation was highly interested in it and, during the following month, an agreement was reached for the purchase of 40 vehicles and 50,000 rounds of ammunition. The price for each vehicle, with two spare barrels, was US$80,000. By the end of 1963, the shipment of the first group was completed. The following year, 16 more vehicles were purchased, followed by 69 in 1965, for a total of 125 vehicles (or 120 depending on the source).

The Soviets were somewhat confused when the JNA delegation asked for more ZSU-57-2 vehicles during 1965. While the Soviets were willing to sell their older and obsolete equipment, there were no more ZSU-57-2s available. By that time, the majority of the ZSU-57-2s were either sold or given to the Warsaw Pact Allies, with a small number preserved for military parades.

This was the first vehicle supplied, which was used for evaluation testing. Source:

Due to the small number acquired by the JNA, the ZSU-57-2 was used to equip Armored Brigades, Armored Regiments, and Tank Brigades with smaller numbers used as training vehicles. The Armored Brigades and Regiments were each equipped with six ZSU-57-2 and one M3A1 scout armored car that served as a command vehicle. Tank Brigades were equipped with two batteries of four vehicles each.

During the seventies, the JNA anti-aircraft units were equipped with more modern Strela-1M surface-to-air missile system vehicles. For this reason, new mixed anti-aircraft units were formed, which consisted of two 12 vehicle batteries of ZSU-57-2s and one 6-vehicle Strela-1M battery.

During its nearly 30-year long career in the JNA, no attempts were ever made to increase the effectiveness of this vehicle. While more modern equipment was eventually acquired (like 30 mm Praga vehicles), the ZSU-57-2 would be never truly replaced. While there were plans that by the year 2000, all available anti-aircraft vehicles would be replaced by 40 mm caliber weapon systems, due to a lack of funds and the breakup of Yugoslavia, this was never achieved. Prior to the breakup of Yugoslavia, the ZSU-57-2 was never used in any combat operations and was mostly used in military exercises and some parades.

ZSU-57-2 during firing exercises. Source:
A trio of ZSU-57-2 during the military exercise in 1972. Source:
A ZSU-57-2 at the Šepurine Military base. This picture was taken in 1972. Source:
A ZSU-57-2 crossing a river. Source:
Two ZSU-57-2 on a military parade in Belgrade Source:

During the Yugoslav Wars

At the start of the Yugoslav war, in 1991, there were still 110 operational ZSU-57-2 vehicles. Due to their small numbers, they were quite uncommon on the battlefields. In most cases, individual vehicles were used in combat, while, in rarer cases, small units were formed as supporting elements for other units. As the usage of aviation in the Yugoslav war was limited on all sides, the ZSU-57-2 was often used in a fire support role. Thanks to its firepower and high elevation, it could be used effectively against enemy forces that were hiding in larger buildings during urban combat. The best example of this can be seen during the Croatian attempt to storm the JNA anti-aircraft school center in Zadar. The Croatian forces were taking firing positions in the surrounding buildings. Thanks to the ZSU-57-2’s high elevation, these could be quickly neutralized by short bursts. Another example was the use of the single ZSU-57-2, nicknamed by its crew ‘Strava’ (Eng: ‘horror’ or ‘dread’), belonging to the 2nd Ozren Brigade operating in the Krivaja valley. There, the ZSU-57-2 proved to be an excellent support vehicle in engaging the enemy forces in the hilly terrain. In July 1995, forces of Republica Srpska, with support of a few ZSU-57-2s, engaged the Bosnian 28th Division. One ZSU-57-2 was destroyed and one was captured and immediately put to use by the Bosnian forces against the former user.

While the majority of the ZSU-57-2 SPAAGs would be operated by the JNA and Republika Srpska armies, smaller numbers would be captured by Croatian and Slovenian forces as well. In an attempt to increase protection, at least one vehicle used by the army of the Republika Srpska was equipped with a top cover. In addition, this vehicle had several spare ammunition boxes added to the front glacis armor.

During the war, the Serbs force used a number of ZSU-57-2. On at least one vehicle, they added makeshift armor on the vehicle top. Source: Wikimedia Commons

After the war

After the war, the ZSU-57-2 was operated for a limited time by the former Yugoslav Republics of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia/Republika Srpska. After the withdrawal of the JNA forces from Slovenia, some 22 ZSU-57-2 SPAAGs were left behind. These remained in use by the Slovenian Army up to the end of the 1990s, when all were removed from service. The Croatians managed to capture a few ZSU-57-2s during the war, but their use after the war was probably limited. The Republika Srpska operated a small number of such vehicles. In 2006, the Army of Bosnia and Republika Srpska were united into a single Army force. At that time, there were 6 ZSU-57-2s which were withdrawn from service.

The ZSU-57-2 remained in use for the longest time within the new SRJ (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia – Savezna Republika Jugoslavija) Army. The depleted number of ZSU-57-2s would again see combat action during the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia in 1999. By that time only two units, the 36th and 252nd Armored Brigades, still operated the ZSU-57-2. The 36th Armored Brigade was tasked with defending a 70 km long defense line from any possible NATO advance through Hungary or Croatia. Its ZSU-57-2 was used in the anti-aircraft defense of Northern Serbia against the NATO bombing raids. Due to extensive NATO aviation operations in this area, the 36th Armored Brigade used a large number of dummy wooden mockups, false firing positions, tank engine temperature imitation techniques, or other improvisations in order to fool NATO forces. While the ZSU-57-2, due to their general obsolescence, did not have any success against NATO aviation, the 36th Armored Brigade did manage to preserve almost all of its equipment.

The second unit to use this vehicle was the 252nd Armored Brigade initially stationed at the city of Kraljevo. When NATO started a bombing campaign against Yugoslavia the 252nd Armored Brigade was surprisingly moved by train to Kosovo and Metohija. There the unit reported having problems with the equipment and vehicles that were previously placed in storage. By the end of the 1999 war, only one ZSU-57-2 was lost.

Some 32 vehicles were reported to be still operational by 2005. By that time, they were deemed obsolete and all were eventually scrapped.

ZSU-57-2 belonging to the 36th Armored Brigade during the 1999 Yugoslav war. Source:

Surviving vehicles

While over 100 were purchased from the Soviet Union, only a few have survived to this day. One can be found in the Bosnian Military Barracks in Banja Luka. At least two are in Slovenia, with one at the Pivka Military History Park. A ZSU-57-2 is in the Military Museum in Vukovar, Croatia. Remains of damaged ZSU-57-2s were located in Kosovo and Metohija.

The ZSU-57-2 from Banja Luka Source:
The Croatian ZSU-57-2. Source: Wikimedia Commons


Ironically, in the search for a modern anti-aircraft vehicle, the JNA actually obtained the obsolete ZSU-57-2. Until being supplemented by Praga anti-aircraft vehicles, the ZSU-57-2 represented the backbone of the JNA mobile anti-aircraft defense. Unfortunately, though intended to protect Yugoslavia from any external air force threats, it saw action against the people it was intended to defend. During the breakup of Yugoslavia, despite the small numbers available, the ZSU-57-2s would nevertheless see combat action in a new role of fire support vehicles. While of little combat value in contrast to other more modern and radar-equipped SPAAGs, it nevertheless had an exceptionally long career of over 40 years.

Croatian ZSU-57-2
Croatian ZSU-57-2, now preserved
Serbian ZSU-57-2 in the 1990s. These were modified with extra storage acting as armour and fitted with a hard top made of armour plates.
Slovenian ZSU-57-2


M. Guardia (2015) Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Guns Of The Soviet Union, Osprey Publishing.
P. Trewhitt (1999) Armoured Fighting vehicles, Amber Books.
B. B. Dumitrijević and D. Savić (2011) Oklopne jedinice na Jugoslovenskom ratištu, Institut za savremenu istoriju, Beograd.
B. B. Dumitrijević (2010), Modernizacija i intervencija, Jugoslovenske oklopne jedinice 1945-2006, Institut za savremenu istoriju, Beograd.
B. B. Dumitrijević (2015) Vek Srpske Protibbazdušne Odbrane, Odbrana.
Surviving ZSU-57-2 Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Guns
Arsenal 81-90 Magazine 2014.

ZSU-57-2 specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) 8.5 x 3.23 x 2.75 m
Total weight, battle ready 28 tonnes
Crew 6 (commander, gunner, loader, driver and two sight adjusters)
Propulsion 520 HP V-54 twelve-cylinder diesel engine
Speed 50 km/h, 30 km/h (cross country)
Range 420 km, 320 km (cross country)
Armament 2 x 57 mm S68 autocannons
Elevation -5° to +80°
Traverse 360°
Armor Up to 15 mm
Total production 2020+
Cold War Yugoslav Armor WW2 Yugoslav Partisan Armor of German Origin

Jagdpanzer 38(t) in Yugoslav Service

Yugoslav Partisans/Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1944-1952)
Tank Destroyer – 20+ Captured

During the Axis occupation of Yugoslavia (1941-1945) and the struggle for liberation, the resistance movements employed a collection of different armored vehicles from the USA, Germany, France, Great Britain, Poland, Soviet Union, and Italy. The Yugoslav Communist partisans used tanks and other vehicles that were given to them by the Western Allies and the Soviets, but also managed to capture a number of different Axis armored vehicles. Among these was the Jagdpanzer 38(t) which the Germans were using by the end of the war in small numbers on this front. The captured Jagdpanzer 38(t) would be used during the war in limited numbers and would also serve after the war by the new JNA (Yugoslav People’s Army) army.

The Jagdpanzer 38(t)

When the Germans occupied what remained of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, they came into possession of two well-known weapon manufacturers: CKD (Ceskomoravska-Kolben-Danek) and Škoda. The CKD factory (renamed BMM by the Germans) was tasked with the production of the Panzer 38(t) for the Germans. The production of this tank would be terminated during the second half of the war, as it proved to be ineffective as a combat vehicle by that stage of the war.
The BMM factory continued production of different combat designs (mostly anti-tank) based on the Panzer 38(t)’s chassis. By late 1943, the BMM factory was involved in designing and building a light and relatively cheap tank destroyer vehicle based on some components from the Panzer 38(t). The result of this work would be the Jagdpanzer 38(t) tank destroyer. It was armed with the 7.5 cm PaK 39 and was fully enclosed and protected with well-angled 60 mm thick front armor. While not a perfect design, it would prove to be an effective anti-tank killer and during the war around 2,824 such vehicles were built by BMM and Škoda. It would be used on all fronts in Europe including in small numbers on the Balkans.

A brand new Jagdpanzer 38(t). Produced in August 1944 at the BMM factory. Source

In the Balkans

The quick defeat of Yugoslavia in April 1941 by the Axis forces created the wrong impression that there would be no more need for engagement of larger occupation force, but an uprising that began only a few months later forced the Germans to re-introduce some armored units in this region. At the start of the uprising, the Germans had only one armored company of old and captured tanks in the whole territory of occupied Yugoslavia. The Germans hastily rushed reinforcements including a tank battalion equipped with mostly captured French tanks ‘Beutepanzers’.
During the later part of the war, especially from 1943 onwards, the communist resistance movement, the National Liberation Army of Yugoslavia (NOVJ) (Народноослободилачка војска Југославије), known today as the ‘Partisans’, began to increase in numbers. This was possible due to cooperation with the Allies which began supplying them with weapons, equipment and personnel. To combat the ever-increasing Partisan movement, the Germans were forced to send any available reinforcements, including some armored elements.
As most modern German armored vehicles were produced in relatively small numbers (in comparison to the Western Allies and Soviets) and were deemed too valuable, usually only older or captured vehicles would be sent to Yugoslavia. These were mostly French but included some Italian, Soviet, and a few British vehicles also. By 1944/45, some relatively modern vehicles, such as the Jagdpanzer 38, in small numbers, were present on this front with different units, including the 181st and 41st Infantry Divisions, 31st SS Volunteer Grenadier Division, 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, and Panzer Abteilung 202.
The 181st Infantry Division was engaged fighting Partisan forces in Montenegro and Herzegovina during the second half of 1944. In October, Panzerjäger-Abteilung 222 was reinforced with 14 Jagdpanzer 38s and with another 10 in January 1945. During the German withdrawal from Yugoslavia in early Spring 1945, this Division would see some heavy action around Zagorje in Croatia. During the battle for the Sermian Front in early April 1945, the 41st Infantry Division was reinforced with 10 of these vehicles. Both these Division surrendered to the Partisans by 12th May 1945.
The 31st SS Volunteer Grenadier Division since November 1944 had operated 14 Jagdpanzer 38 vehicles. This unit was for a short time used to fight Yugoslav Partisans before being deployed to Hungary to fight the Soviets. The much depleted 14th SS Grenadier Division “Galizische” was used to fight the Partisans in Slovenia during March, but shortly afterward was pulled out from this front. Panzer Abteilung 202 had been engaged in heavy fighting in Yugoslavia for years, its combat strength on 1st April 1945 was reported to be 23 Italian tanks, 2 Semovente 75/18, and 10 Jagdpanzers 38.

In Partisans hands

Precise information regarding the circumstances of when or how the Jagdpanzer 38 vehicles were captured is hard to find. The problem with Partisan documentation is that due to the poor knowledge of precise military designation, too often, wrong names or just simply the term tank (without any context or explanation of the type) were used. Sometimes Partisans units that did manage to capture enemy vehicles immediately put them into their service without reporting them to the High Command. Due to this, it is difficult to determine which vehicles were captured or if they were used in combat.
One of the first Jagdpanzers 38(t)s captured was during the German unsuccessful offensive action near Baranya that lasted from 6th to 19th March 1945. During the heavy fighting, the Partisans forced the Germans to withdraw and on that occasion, an unknown number (possibly only one or two) of Jagdpanzers 38(t)s were captured. The following month, another one was captured near Našice in North-East Croatia. Additionally, a number of these vehicles were also captured as they were left behind by the fleeing German forces. This is the case of Panzer Abteilung 202, as nearly all its armored vehicles (Jagdpanzers 38(t), M.15/42, Sd. Kfz. 251, etcetera) were found abandoned loaded on a train on the railroad from Ljubljana to Kranj. On top of that, a few were captured during the liberation of Maribor from 10th to 15th May 1945. The majority of the Jagdpanzers 38(t)s were captured with the final surrender of the 181st and 41st Infantry Divisions in May 1945.
According to researcher Dragan Savić, who investigated the Partisan archive of captured vehicles and equipment, a total of around 20 Jagdpanzer 38(t)s in various conditions were captured. Due to the lack of proper documentation, this number may be higher but it is hard to tell.

This vehicle was captured by the 16th Vojvodina Division (Vojvođanska Divizija) near the region of Baranya in March of 1945. Source

Another (or the same vehicle) with the 16th Vojvodina Division near the region of Baranya. Source
The use of these vehicles by the Partisan during the war is not well known due to the lack of documentation. The vehicles captured in Vojvodina (where the Jagdpanzers 38s were used) were often employed in combat, but only in small numbers.
There is a possibility that some Jagdpanzer 38(t)s were used by the specially formed Partisan auto-school (school for armored vehicle crew training) near the capital city of Belgrade in late 1944. If this school was independent or part of the larger school (possibly located, but there is no documentation to prove this) in the city of Kragujevac (Serbia) is also unknown. Allegedly, the Belgrade school in May 1945 had in its inventory: four R35, two-to-three M.15/42, L.6, one Semovente (possibly 75/18), two Semovente 47/32, a Hotchkiss (unknown type and numbers, probably a H35) StuG III, one Ferdinand (possibly a Jagdpanzer 38(t)) and a few armored cars.

One of the Jagdpanzer 38(t)s captured by the Yugoslavs and put into service, during training exercises at Bela Crkva after the war. Illustration by David Bocquelet, modified by Leander Jobse.

The name

During the war, the Yugoslav Partisans managed to capture a number of Axis armored combat vehicles. As the majority of the Partisan fighters who managed to capture these vehicles had no knowledge of the precise military designation for these vehicles, they called them by different and mostly wrong names. For example, the German-used T-34s (captured by the Soviet Union) were often called ‘Panther’, despite the fact that this vehicle was never used on this front.
The same is true in the case with the Jagdpanzer 38(t) (and, in some cases, for the StuG III, which also complicates the identification process), which was known under the name “Ferdinand” by some of its crew during and after the war. The origin of this name is not clear, but it is highly likely that name was taken from Soviet troops during the battle for Belgrade in late 1944.
After the war, the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) never officially designated the Jagdpanzer 38(t) as Ferdinand. This is likely a result of the better understanding of the equipment captured during the war. In order to avoid any confusion and as the later JNA never gave any other designation, this article has and will use the original German designation for this vehicle.

After the war

The Jagdpanzers 38(t) in the JNA after the war were used mainly to equip combat units and as training vehicles. It was used for a short time to equip the 2nd Tank Brigade (equipped with the Soviet T-34-85) with two battalions of 8 Jagdpanzer 38(t)s during 1946. Some were given to the independent self-propelled anti-tank brigade.
A group of four or five such vehicles was given to the newly formed Tenkovsko Vojno Učilište (TVU) [Tank Military School] in November of 1945. The TVU was formed by the order of the Ministry of the National Committee in June 1945. The TVU had the aim to train a new generation of tank officers and was based on the Soviet model of schooling. It was first located at Banjica, but was relocated to Bela Crkva in 1946. In 1948, due to the Tito-Stalin split, Yugoslavia refused to join the Eastern communist bloc, and due to this decision, they were in real danger of a war with the Soviet Union. As the TVU was stationed near the Romanian border, it was put on high alert during this crisis. As this led to a slow crew training process, the TVU was again moved to Banja Luka far away from the eastern borders. From 1948 onwards, in the hope to keep the T-34-85s in good condition, the older and captured vehicles were mainly used for training.

A Jagdpanzer 38(t) during training exercises at Bela Crkva after the war. All captured vehicles received a three-digit label after the war. Source

Another photograph during training exercises after the war. Source
During its use as a training vehicle, the Jagdpanzer 38(t) was not much liked by its crews. There were a few reasons for this: cramped interior; unusual crew positions (with three crew member located on the right side); and during training, these vehicles were always marked as enemy vehicles, which was unpopular with its crews. The Jagdpanzer 38 would remain in operational service up to 1952 when the remaining vehicles were withdrawn from service as they were being replaced with more modern Western vehicles. Unfortunately, no Yugoslav Jagdpanzer 38(t) vehicles survive to this day.

Markings and paint scheme

After the war, there was no effective registration numbering system for the available armored vehicles of the JNA. Captured vehicles, regardless of origin, received a white three digits label which was simply painted with a paintbrush. The German vehicles were painted in the Dunkel Gelb with the combination of dark green and brown-red.

Yugoslav Jagdpanzer 38s in Albania

After the war, in Albania, a new communist regime established good but brief relations with Yugoslavia. As a result of these good relations, the JNA provided the Albanians with a number of different items of military equipment, supplies, personnel, and instructors. With training, a group of 21 tanks and other armored vehicles (including few Jagdpanzer 38(t)s) were also sent in September 1946. The instructors and other personnel were stationed there during 1947-48 and helped to train the Albanian crews.


The Jagdpanzer 38(t) did not have any influence on the future development of armored vehicles in JNA. It was important for two things: first, it helped build up the JNA strength after WWII at times the need for any armored vehicle was great, and it did help training first generations of new crew and officers.


Terry J. G. (2004), Tanks in Detail JgdPz IV, V, VI and Hetzer, Ian Allan Publishing
Duško Nešić, (2008), Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
Bojan B. D. and Dragan S.(2011) Oklopne jedinice na Jugoslovenskom ratištu 1941-1945, Institut za savremenu istoriju, Beograd.
Bojan B. D. (2010) Modernizacija i intervencija, Jugoslovenske oklopne jedinice 1945-2006, Institut za savremenu istoriju, Beograd.
Velimir V. (2003), Tito’s Partisans 1941-45, Osprey publishing.
Samuel W. and Mitcham J.R. (2007), The German Order Of The Battle, Stackpole Books.

Jagdpanzer 38(t) specifications

Dimensions 6.38 x 2.63 x 2.17 m
Total weight, battle-ready 15.7 tonnes
Crew 4 (Gunner, loader, driver and commander)
Propulsion Six-cylinder Praga AE water-cooled 150 hp
Speed 42 km/h, 15 km/h (cross-country)
Range 177 km
Armament 75 mm PaK 39 and one MG 34 or MG 42 machine gun
Armor 60-8 mm
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index
Cold War Yugoslav Armor Has Own Video

90mm GMC M36 ‘Jackson’ in Yugoslav Service

Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Successor States (1953-2003)
Tank Destroyer – 399 Supplied

After the so-called Tito-Stalin split that took place in 1948, the new Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA- Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija) found itself in a critical situation. It was impossible to acquire new modern military equipment. The JNA had been heavily dependent on Soviet military delivery and aid in armament and weapons, especially armored vehicles. On the other side, the Western countries were initially in a dilemma whether to help the new communist Yugoslavia or not. But, by the end of 1950, the side arguing in favor of providing military assistance to Yugoslavia had prevailed.
In the middle of 1951, a Yugoslav military delegation (led by General Koča Popović) visited the USA in order to achieve military cooperation between these two countries. These negotiations were successful and, on the 14th November 1951, an agreement for military aid was concluded (Military Assistance Pact). It was signed by Josip Broz Tito (Leader of Yugoslavia) and George Allen (American ambassador in Belgrade). With this contract, Yugoslavia was included in MDAP (Mutual Defence Aid Program).
Thanks to MDAP, the JNA received, during 1951-1958, plenty of military equipment, and armored vehicles, like the M36 Jackson, were amongst them.

During military exercises, somewhere in Yugoslavia. Having captured a large amount of German military equipment, one should not be surprised by the fact that the JNA soldiers were equipped with German WW2 weapons and other equipment. Photo: SOURCE

The M36

As the M10 3in GMC American tank hunter had insufficient penetration power (3in/76 mm main gun) to stop the new German Tiger and Panther tanks, the US Army needed a more powerful vehicle with a stronger gun and better armor. A new 90 mm M3 gun (modified AA gun) was developed relatively quickly. It had enough penetration power to destroy most German tanks at long ranges.
The vehicle itself was built by using a modified M10A1 hull (Ford GAA V-8 engine), with a larger turret (this was necessary due to the larger dimensions of the new main weapon). Despite the fact that the first prototype was completed in March 1943, production of the M36 started in mid-1944 and the first delivery to units on the front was in August/September 1944. The M36 was one of the most effective Allied tank destroyers on the Western front in 1944/45.
Along with the main version, two more were built, the M36B1 and the M36B2. The M36B1 was built by using a combination of M4A3 hull and chassis and the M36 turret with the 90 mm gun. This was considered necessary due to an increase in demand for these vehicles, but it was also cheap and easy to carry out. The M36B2 was based on the M4A2 chassis (the same hull as for the M10) with the General Motors 6046 diesel engine. Both of these versions were built in some numbers.

The rare M36B1 in JNA service. Photo: SOURCE
The M36 had a crew of five: commander, loader, and gunner in the turret, and driver and assistant driver in the hull. The main armament was, as already mentioned, the 90 mm M3 gun (elevation of -10° to +20°) with a secondary heavy 12.7 mm machine-gun located at the top of the open turret, designed to be used as a light AA weapon. The M36B1, as it was based on a tank chassis, had a secondary ball-mounted Browning M1919 7.62 mm machine-gun in the hull. After the war, some M36 tank hunters had a secondary machine-gun installed (similar to the M36B1), received an improved main gun and the open top turret, which was an issue during combat operations, was modified with a folding armored roof for extra crew protection.
Unlike other tank-hunter vehicles of the same type used by other nations, the M36 had a 360° rotating turret which allowed a great level of flexibility during combat.

In Yugoslavia

Thanks to the MDAP military program, the JNA was reinforced with a large number of American armored vehicles, including the M36. During the period of 1953 to 1957, a total of 399 M36 (some 347 M36 and 42/52 M36B1, the exact numbers are unknown) were supplied to the JNA (according to some sources the M36B1 and M36B2 versions were supplied). The M36 was to be used as a replacement for the obsolete and outdated Soviet SU-76 self-propelled guns in the anti-tank and long-range fire-support roles.

The M36 was used during military parades often held in Yugoslavia. They often had political slogans written on them. This one reads ‘Long-live the November elections’. Photo: SOURCE
A number of infantry regiment batteries equipped with six M36 vehicles were formed. Infantry divisions were equipped with one anti-tank unit (Divizioni/Дивизиони) which, besides the main command battery, had three anti-tank battery units with 18 M36s. Armored brigades of armored divisions were equipped with one battery of 4 M36s. Also, some independent self-propelled anti-tank regiments (with M36 or M18 Hellcats) were formed.
Due to bad international relations with the Soviet Union, the first combat units that were equipped with M36s were those who guarded the eastern border of Yugoslavia against a potential Soviet attack. Fortunately, this attack never came.
Yugoslav military analysis of the M36 had shown that the 90 mm main gun had enough penetration firepower to efficiently fight the mass-produced T-34/85. Modern tanks (like the T-54/55) were problematic. By 1957, their anti-tank capacities were considered inadequate to deal with modern tanks of that time, although they were designed as tank hunters. According to JNA military plans from 1957 onwards, the M36s were to be used as fire support vehicles from long distance and to fight on the sides of any possible enemy breakthrough. During its career in Yugoslavia, the M36 was used more as mobile artillery then as an anti-tank weapon.
According to the ’Drvar’ military plan (late 1959), the M36 was ejected from use in infantry regiments but remained in use in mixed anti-tank units (four M36 and four towed anti-tank guns) of many infantry brigades. Mountain and armored brigades had four M36. First line infantry and armored divisions (marked with a capital letter A) had 18 M36.
The M36 was often used on military parades during the sixties. By the late sixties, the M36 was removed from the first line units (most were sent to be used as training vehicles) and moved to support units equipped with missile weapons (the 2P26). In the seventies, the M36 was used with units equipped with 9M14 Malyutka ATGM weapons.
Although the process of modernizing military technology was initiated in the 1980s, there was no adequate replacement for the M36, so they remained in use. The Soviet towed smoothbore 100 mm T-12 (2A19) artillery was considered better than the M36, but the problem with the T-12 was its lack of mobility, so the M36 remained in use.
By the decision of JNA military officials in 1966, it was decided that the M4 Sherman tank would be withdrawn from operational use (but for various reasons, they remained in use for some time afterward). Part of these tanks would be sent to units equipped with the M36 to be used as training vehicles.

Development of New Shells and Ammunition Supply Problems

The 90 mm main gun did not have enough penetrating power for the military standards of the fifties and sixties. There were some attempts to improve the quality of the ammunition used or even design new types and thus improve the characteristics of this weapon.
During 1955-1959, experiments were carried out with new types of domestically developed and manufactured ammunition for the 90 mm gun (also used by the M47 Patton II tank which was supplied through the MDAP program). Two types of ammunition were developed and tested by the Military Technical Institute. The first was the HE M67 round and late during the seventies a new slowly-rotating HEAT M74 round was developed and tested. These tests showed that the M74 round had good penetration power. The pre-production of this type of ammunition began in 1974. Order for the full production was given to the ‘Pretis’ factory. This round was supplied to all units equipped with M36 and M47 tanks.
In the late fifties and early sixties, despite great help from the West, there was a great problem with maintenance and ammunition supply. Many tanks were not operational due to insufficient spare parts, lack of ammunition, an insufficient number of repair workshops, equipment defects, and an insufficient number of adequate vehicles for delivering supplies. Perhaps the biggest problem was the lack of ammunition. The problem with 90 mm ammunition was such that some units ran out of shells (during peacetime!). Available ammunition for the M36 was at only 40% of the necessary.
With the Soviet technique, the problem was solved by adopting domestic production of the ammunition. For the Western vehicles, the problem with ammunition was solved by purchasing additional ammunition, as well as by attempting to produce domestic ammunition.

M36 specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) 5.88 without gun x 3.04 x 2.79 m (19’3″ x 9’11” x 9’2″)
Total weight, battle ready 29 tonnes
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Ford GAA V-8, gasoline, 450 hp, 15.5 hp/t
Suspension VVSS
Speed (road) 48 km/h (30 mph)
Range 240 km (150 mi) on flat
Armament 90 mm M3 (47 rounds)
cal.50 AA machine gun(1000 rounds)
Armor 8 mm to 108 mm front (0.31-4.25 in)
Total production 1772 in 1945

Croatian M36 077 “Topovnjaca”, War of Independence, Dubrovnik brigade, 1993. Illustrated by David Bocquelet.

GMC M36, fitted with the armored roof, used by one of the Yugoslav successor states, the Republika Srpska. This one has an unusual and a bit ridiculous markings ‘Angry Aunt’ (Бјесна Стрина) and ‘Run away, Uncle’ (Бјежи Ујо) inscriptions. Illustrated by Jaroslaw ‘Jarja’ Janas and paid for with funds from our Patreon campaign.


During the long service life of the M36 in the JNA, some modifications and improvements were carried out or were tested:
– On some M36s, a domestic-built infrared night vision device (Уређај за вожњу борбених возила М-63) was tested. It was a direct copy of the one used on the M47 tank. It was tested in 1962 and produced in some numbers from 1963 on. At the beginning of the seventies, a number of M36 vehicles were equipped with a similar system.
– Besides the original 90 mm M3 gun, some models were rearmed with the improved M3A1 (with a muzzle brake) gun. Sometimes, a heavy 12.7 mm M2 Browning machine-gun was used, located on the turret top. The M36B1 version had a hull ball-mounted 7.62 mm Browning machine-gun.
– By the seventies, due to significant wear out in some vehicles, the original Ford engine was replaced with the stronger and more modern engine taken from the T-55 tank (according to some sources, the T-34/85 tank’s V-2 500 hp engine was used). Because of the larger dimensions of the new Soviet engine, it was necessary to redesign and reconstruct the rear engine compartment. A new opening door measuring 40×40 cm was used. Brand new air and oil filters were installed and the exhaust pipe was moved to the left side of the vehicle.

This M36, in the process of being scrapped, was equipped with the T-55 engine. Photo: SOURCE
– An unusual fact was that, despite experimenting with various types of camouflage for its armored vehicles in addition to its primary grey-olive (sometimes in combination with green) color, the JNA never adopted any use of camouflage paint for its vehicles.
– The first radio used was the SCR 610 or SCR 619. Due to obsolescence and reorientation towards Soviet military technology, these were replaced with the Soviet R-123 model.
– Headlights and infrared night vision devices with an armored box were added on the front armor.

In combat

Even though the M36 was completely outdated as a military vehicle in the early nineties, it was still used during the Civil War in Yugoslavia. This was mostly due to the simple reason that it was available in large quantities and, since no stronger tank forces were available in sufficient numbers (many improvised armored vehicles, tractors and even armored trains were used), something was certainly better than nothing. Nearly all 399 were still operational by the beginning of the war.

During the Yugoslav wars of the nineties, almost all military vehicles had different inscriptions painted on them. This one has an unusual and a bit ridiculous marking ‘Angry Aunt’ (Бјесна Стрина) and ‘Run away, Uncle’ (Бјежи Ујо) inscriptions. ‘Uncle’ was a Serbian ironic name for the Croatian Ustashe. In the upper right corner of the turret, it is written ’Mица’, which is a woman’s name. Photo: SOURCE
Note: This event is still politically controversial in the countries of former Yugoslavia. The name of the war, the reasons for the beginning, who and when started it and other questions are still being debated between politicians and historians of the former Yugoslav nations. The author of this article sought to be neutral and to write only about the participation of this vehicle during the war.
During the confusion of the beginning of the Civil War in Yugoslavia, and the gradual withdrawal of the JNA from the former Yugoslav countries (Bosnia, Slovenia and Croatia), many M36s were left behind. All participants of this war managed to capture and use certain numbers of this vehicle under various circumstances and conditions.
As most tanks, armored personnel carriers and other vehicles were mainly used in the infantry fire support role, the older vehicles could still be used without fear of engaging modern vehicles. Thanks to the M36’s good gun elevation and strong explosive shell, it was considered useful, especially in the mountainous parts of Yugoslavia. They were mostly used individually or in small numbers (larger groups were rare) for the support of infantry battalions or company advances.
During the war, the crews added a rubber ‘boards’ on some M36 vehicles, partially or on the whole vehicle, in the hope that this modification would defend them from high-explosive anti-tank warhead (this practice was carried out on other armored vehicles as well). Such modified vehicles could often be seen on television or images published during the war. Whether these modifications were effective is hard to say, although almost assuredly they were of little value. There were several cases when these modifications were claimed to have helped protect the vehicles which had them. But again, it’s difficult to determine whether these occurrences were due to this ‘rubber armor’ or some other factor. One such vehicle can be seen today at the Duxford military museum in Great Britain. It was bought after the war with the original Republic of Srpska markings.

M36 with improvised ‘rubber armor’. Photo: SOURCE
After the end of the war, most M36 tank hunters were withdrawn from military use due to the lack of spare parts and obsolescence and were scrapped. The Republika Srpska (a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina) used the M36 for a short period of time, after which most were sold or scrapped. Only the new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (consisting of Serbia and Montenegro) still continued to use them operationally.
According to the armament regulations instituted by the Dayton Agreement (late 1995), the former Yugoslav countries had to reduce their numbers of military armored vehicles. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia retained the right to have around 1,875 armored vehicles. By this regulation, a large number of older vehicles (mostly T-34/85 tanks) and 19 M36s were removed from service.
Some units which were equipped with the M36 were based in Kosovo and Metohija (Serbia) during 1998/1999. In that period, the M36s were engaged in fighting the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). During the NATO attack on Yugoslavia in 1999, a number of M36 were used in the fighting in Kosovo and Metohija. During this war, only a few were lost due to NATO air strikes, apparently mostly thanks to the camouflage skills of the Yugoslav ground forces.

The old M36 and the new M1A1 Abrams meet during the withdrawal of the Yugoslav Army from Kosovo in 1999. Photo: SOURCE
The last operational combat use of the M36 was in 2001. They were defending the southern parts of Yugoslavia against Albanian separatists. This conflict ended with the surrender of the Albanian separatists.
Changing the name of the country from the ‘Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’ to ‘Serbia and Montenegro’ in 2003, the M36 had, ironically, outlived yet another Yugoslavia. By the order of the High Command of the Armed Forces of Serbia and Montenegro (in June 2004) all usage and training on the M36 was to be terminated. The crews who were on training on this vehicle were transferred to units equipped with the 2S1 Gvozdika. In 2004/2005, the M36 was definitively removed from military service and sent to be scrapped, ending the story of the M36 after nearly 60 long years of service.
Several M36s were placed in various military museums and barracks in the former countries of Yugoslavia and some were sold off to foreign countries and private collections.

Links & Resources

The illustrated guide to Tanks of the world, George Forty, Anness publishing 2005, 2007.
Naoružanje drugog svetsko rata-USA, Duško Nešić, Beograd 2008.
Modernizacija i intervencija, Jugoslovenske oklopne jedinice 1945-2006, Institut za savremenu istoriju, Beograd 2010.
Military Magazine ‘Arsenal’, Number 1-10, 2007.
Waffentechnik im Zeiten Weltrieg, Alexander Ludeke, Parragon books.