Categories
Yugoslavian armor

ZSU-57-2 in Yugoslavian Service

Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1963-2006)
Self-propelled anti-aircraft vehicle- 120-125

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.

History

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 While the M15 was a properly designed military vehicle, it was still outdated by the fifties.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: https://www.srpskioklop.paluba.info/

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 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: http://www.srpskioklop.paluba.info/zsu57/opis.html

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: http://www.srpskioklop.paluba.info/zsu57/opis.html
A trio of ZSU-57-2 during the military exercise in 1972. Source: http://www.srpskioklop.paluba.info/zsu57/opis.html
A ZSU-57-2 at the Šepurine Military base. This picture was taken in 1972. Source: http://www.srpskioklop.paluba.info/zsu57/opis.html
A ZSU-57-2 crossing a river. Source: http://www.srpskioklop.paluba.info/zsu57/opis.html
Two ZSU-57-2 on a military parade in Belgrade Source: http://www.balkanwarhistory.com/2017/04/the-zsu-57-2-in-service-of-yugoslav.html

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: http://www.srpskioklop.paluba.info/zsu57/opis.html

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: http://www.srpskioklop.paluba.info/zsu57/opis.html
The Croatian ZSU-57-2. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Conclusion

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
ZSU-57-2
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.
ZSU-57-2
Slovenian ZSU-57-2

Source

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.
http://www.srpskioklop.paluba.info/zsu57/opis.html

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+
Categories
Yugoslavian armor

90mm GMC M36 ‘Jackson’ in Yugoslavian Service


Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (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.

Modifications

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 Yugoslavian 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 Yugoslavian 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.
www.srpskioklop.paluba.info

Categories
Yugoslavian armor

Tenk Tip-A

Yugoslavia (1948-52)
Experimental Medium Tank – 5 Built

An interesting and somewhat unusual story states, that on the 26th of February 1949, while visiting the ’Petar Drapšin’ (Петар Драпшин) tank workshop, Yugoslav President Tito (Josif Broz) asked all the gathered workers if they could build a tank? Everyone answered aloud ‘we can comrade Tito!’ Tito allegedly replied something along the lines of ‘Then you have a task now!’ and so the work on the Vehicle A started. Whether this is the whole truth or just a myth, it’s hard to say. Even if true, it was a more or less a symbolic gesture, because the decision to start the production of Vehicle A had already been made in 1948.

All the Vehicle A’s were first shown to the public at a military parade held in Belgrade on the 1st of May 1950. Photo: SOURCE

Yugoslavia after WW2

After Tito’s famous ‘No’ reply to Stalin’s demand for Yugoslavia to join the newly formed Communist Eastern Block in 1948 (the so-called Tito-Stalin split), Yugoslavia found itself in a major political and military crisis. As a consequence, this forced Yugoslavia to turn politically more and more to the west. This would result in a slightly ‘liberal’ variant of communism in contrast to the Eastern Block. That lead Yugoslavia to become the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It was one of the better economies in Eastern Europe during the 60’s and 70’s, with much better living conditions in comparison with other communist countries.
As for the more important military crisis, the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA- Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija) found itself in a very serious situation. The army was in the process of reorganization and rearmament and was heavily dependent on Soviet military supplies. The problem also resided in the fact that the Western allies refused to deliver any military support to communist countries. This later changed as Yugoslavia became more friendly to the Western countries, which started sending large amounts of military aid.
But, in the meantime, the Yugoslav People’s Army had to find a way out of this crisis. The armored forces mostly consisted of old and captured (and also supplied by Allies and Soviets) equipment. One way to solve this problem was to build domestic tanks, which is what the Yugoslav People’s Army did.

The New Tank

During 1948, a special commission was formed to examine the tactical and technical characteristics for the future domestic build tank, named ‘Vehicle A’ (Возило А) sometimes also called ‘Type A’ (Tип A). The Yugoslav designers had two dilemmas: should they improve the characteristics of the already existing T-34-85 Soviet tanks or design and build a brand new tank?
The construction of a new tank required a developed industry and also a high number of educated and qualified personnel and, perhaps most importantly, it would take a long time to complete the implementation and the production. Due to the bad economic situation, mostly due to the damage done to the industry and infrastructure during the war, production of a new tank was not realistic or possible in the near future. As a result of this, the special commission proposed a plan to improve the T-34/85 tank.
The first proposals regarding the new tank were: better armor, weight of about 28 tons, smaller dimensions, and stronger gun or the improvement of the characteristics of the already existing gun.

History & Development

Three workshops were selected to work on the new Vehicle A project. These were Petar Drapšin from Mladenovac (Младеновац), ‘Đuro Đaković’ from Slavonski Brod (Славонски брод) and Institut no.11 from Kragujevac (Крагујевац). Although the Petar Drapšin workshop received an order for the production of the first 5 prototypes, due to the complexity of the task, other workshops were later included.
Workshop Petar Drapšin was formed on the 8th of August 1949 in Mladenovac (Serbia). It was named after Yugoslav Partisan commander Petar Drapšin (1914 – 1945). This workshop had at first some 200 workers, but this number was increased to 400 (later even more) due to an increase in production and repairs of tanks and tank parts for the T-34 and SU-76 self-propelled gun. The head of this project was Major Anton Kurt. During the war, he worked on the Stuart M3A3 conversions using German weapons.
It was unusual that the new tank was built without previous project plans, as opposed to how such an endeavor usually progressed (first the designers work on plans and calculations, and then proceed to production). This was to have great (and negative) consequences in the late development of this tank.
The first thing done was to have the workers disassemble one T-34 tank into parts, and then start to copy them, but without testing the material or even to do more detailed analysis of them. The lack of some metals (especially nickel) forced them to find alternative materials to be used as an improvised solution to this problem.

Five Vehicle A’s, during inspection in 1950. Photo: SOURCE
After the list with the necessary parts was ready, the production of the new modified parts began in several different workshops. The whole tank was later assembled in the Petar Drapšin workshop. The main armament was supplied by the ‘Red Star’ (Crvena Zvezda) workshop from Kragujevac. An interesting fact is that the engine was designed by a lone soldier from the town of Bihać. The turret and the rest of the tank body was mostly made in the Đuro Đaković workshop. As previously noted, the final assembly was done in Petar Drapšin when all the parts had arrived. After 14 months of hard labor working in two shifts (more than 14 hours per day), five prototypes of Vehicle A were ready to be tested.
The first tests were conducted at the foot of Mount Majdan (Мајдан) near the Capital, Belgrade. The next trials were conducted with three tanks in the region of Mladenovac-Aranđelovac-Topola. The other two vehicles were used for testing of the gun.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 8.15 (5.12 without gun) x 3 x 2.6 m
26’9″ (16’10” without gun) x 9’10” x 8’6″
Track width 51 cm (1’8″ ft.inch)
Total weight, battle ready 33.5-34.7 tons
Crew 5
Propulsion V12 diesel GAZ, 400 bhp (30 kW)
Speed 38 km/h (26 mph)
Range (road/off road) 185 km (114 mi)
Armament 85 mm (3.35 in) ZiS-S-53
2x MG-42 (7.92 mm)
1x Browning .50 Cal (12.7 mm)
Armor 20 to 100 mm (0.78-3.93 in)
Production 5

Illustration of the Yugoslav Type A
Yugoslav Type A by David Bocquelet

Technical characteristics

This tank was based on the T-34/85, so it is no surprise that it shared a lot of similarities with the Soviet vehicle in almost all aspects (armor, gun, running gear etc.).
The interior and the crew positions of Tank A were almost identical to the T-34. The driver was located on the left side, while the radio operator, who was also the machine gunner, (the radio used was the British SET-19WF with an operational range of 10-15 km) was on the right side of the hull. In the tank turret there were a commander, the gun operator and the loader.
To gain access to their battle positions, the crew had two ways of entering the tank, through two hatch doors on the turret roof or through the hatch door on the front hull armor (same as the T-34). As well as the driver’s view hatch slides, two periscopes were located on top of the turret and used for observation.

Almost all vehicles seen during displays had some political slogan written on them. Photo: SOURCE
The main armament was the Soviet 85mm ZIS-53 gun with some minor modifications done on it such as improved hydraulics and adding a muzzle brake although the original Soviet ammunition was still used. Fifty rounds of ammunition for the main gun were carried inside Vehicle A. The original Soviet TS-15 sight device was exchanged with the German TZF one (taken from captured Pz.Kpfw.IV tanks) with an improved magnification x4 instead of x3. The maximum elevation of the main gun was -10° to +17°.
The secondary weapons were also changed. The Soviet DTM (7.62mm) machine guns were abandoned and, instead, two MG 42’s (7.92mm) were installed (one in the hull and one in the turret). A third, heavy machine gun (Browning 12.7mm) was installed on the roof of the turret, to be used for light anti-aircraft role.
The frontal armor thickness was 50mm (at an angle of 30°), while the angled front hull corners, sides, and the rear armor was 45mm thick. The hull roof and floor armor were similar (20-25mm). The turret was elliptical-shaped with frontal thickness of around 100mm, with the side 82-86mm and the rear 60mm. The tank turret was narrower but higher than the original T-34 one.
A new 500 hp V2 diesel (12-cylinder) engine was installed. This engine was mostly built from domestic parts, but the materials used to build it were of low quality, which affected the engine performance and caused many overheating problems. The running gear was identical to the T-34. There were a lot of problems with the transmission, as it was bumpy and unreliable. The tracks were 50 cm wide and weighed more than the Soviet ones.

Operational Use

The Vehicle A was never used in any combat operations. They were first shown to the public at a military parade held in Belgrade on the 1st of May 1950. After that, they were used for a limited time for testing and crew training.

Production and Fate

Only five were ever built, simply because the entire production was too slow and too expensive, and because foreign armored vehicles had become available in sufficient quantities for use.
A more damning reason for the rejection of this project lies in the very way in which these tanks were built. Although several vehicles were made, each of them was a unique vehicle. Because there were no design plans or calculations, each of the five tanks was built in a unique way with some differences in production (like the materials used, tonnage etc.). So, when the Yugoslav Army field tested these vehicles, it was not possible to make an accurate conclusion as to whether they were successful or not. They could not be considered as prototype vehicles for the possible future production and in order to get any useful information, it was necessary to produce several more vehicles, which was too expensive.
Others problems were that the Vehicle A was a few tons heavier than it was originally planned, the height and width did not meet the specifications and there were too many breakdowns during testing. Generally speaking, Vehicle A did not offer any better performance than the T-34. The final decision was made to quit the development of this project. The order for 10 more vehicles planned was canceled. Despite the cancellations of the Vehicle A project, experiments on improving the T-34 continued for some time after that.
At the beginning of March 1952, one vehicle was sent to the Kalemegdan Military museum in Belgrade, the capital city of Serbia, where it is still located and can be seen. A second vehicle was supposed to be placed in the Petar Drapšin workshop (fate unknown). Two turrets were put on display in front of the workshop Đuro Đaković. The rest were initially used for testing and training, but most ended as firing targets.

The sole Vehicle A survivor can be found in the Military museum at Kalemegdan Belgrade, Serbia. Photo: SOURCE

Links, Resources, & Further Reading

Modernizacija i intervencija, Jugoslovenske oklopne jedinice 1945-2006, Institut za savremenu istoriju, Beograd 2010.
Artillery and Armoured vehicles in exterior of military museum, Mirko Peković i Ivan Mijatović, Vojni muzej Beograd 2009.
Oklopne jedinice na Jugoslovenskom ratištu, Bojan B. Dumitrijević i Dragan Savić, Institut za savremenu istoriju, Beograd 2011.
www.srpskioklop.paluba.info
www.warhistoryonline.com
www.mladenovac.publikacija.rs