Armored Fighting Vehicles
After the collapse of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, the new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was born. This Yugoslavia was, in essence, a union between two countries, Serbia and Montenegro. In 2006, both countries became independent after a referendum held in Montenegro. The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia officially created the Army of Serbia on 8th June 2006. This led to the creation of the independent Serbian Army, which essentially got as its inheritance the majority of the remaining military equipment and weapons from Yugoslavia, but also some newer projects that were in process of development.
The Serbian Army’s pool of armored equipment could be divided essentially into three groups. The first group contained leftover vehicles from JNA inventory. These were mostly imported from Eastern Bloc countries but also include some domestically developed vehicles. While a number of them were put to storage, some of them are currently in use and are modernized to some extent. In the second group were the domestically developed projects (like the NORA or SORA self-propelled vehicles) that were either in the experimental phase or were in service in smaller numbers. The last group was composed of vehicles that were purchased or obtained as donations.
One of the first orders of the Serbian General Staff after the Army was formed was to reduce the existing number of vehicles and personnel by forming four Army Brigades. The 1st Army Brigade was stationed in Novi Sad, 2nd in Kraljevo, 3rd in Niš, and the 4th in Vranje. Each of these four Brigades consisted of one Tank Battalion, two Mechanized Battalions, one self-propelled howitzer battalion (the 1st had a self-propelled artillery battalion instead), one self-propelled multiple rocket launcher battalion (the 2nd and 4th are equipped with towed rocket launchers), one air defense artillery missile battalion, two Infantry battalions, one Engineers, and one Logistic Battalion. The Serbian Army has other units, like the 246th CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defence Battalion), two Armed Police Battalions, and a Mixed Artillery Brigade.
In addition, with the acquisition of recent Russian equipment, a T-72M Tank Battalion and an Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, both of which are stationed in Niš, were formed.
The pool of vehicles that originated from the JNA was painted in standard gray olive color. Newer vehicles received a simple green base with a combination of brown and black patches. In addition, some vehicles have five-digit numbers painted on them.
In 2006, the Serbian Army had in its inventory relatively large numbers of tanks. These included some 232 M-84 and 61 T-72 tanks and an unknown number of T-55s that are stored and not in use. There were some attempts to improve the T-55’s survivability by improving its armor protection, but this project was ultimately abandoned. The T-72 underwent a similar attempt of modernization with the aim of increasing armor protection, the precision of the gun, introducing a new engine, etc, but the project was not adopted.
The M-84 tank represents the main tank of the Serbian Army and less than 200 are in operational use, while the remaining are stored. It was developed on the base of the Soviet T-72 with a number of improvements, like having a stronger engine and better protection (the M-84A version). In 2020, the Serbian Army began to develop a more modern version of the M-84. This project was named M-84AS and is equipped with a remote-controlled machine gun, improved overall protection by the addition of explosive reactive and cage armor, developing new types of ammunition, etc.
In October 2020, a contingent of T-72MS tanks (some 30 vehicles) began to arrive as a donation from Russia to the Serbian Army. With these tanks, an independent T-72M Tank Battalion was formed.
As previously mentioned, each Army Brigade was reinforced with one Tank Battalion. The Tank Battalion was divided into the Battalion Headquarters and four Tank Companies, with 13 vehicles each. Tank Battalion has a combat strength of 53 vehicles, mostly M-84 tanks. The exception to this rule is the 46th Tank Battalion, which has 40 M-84 and 13 T-72 tanks.
During the 1960s, some 40 SU-100s (known as M-44) were brought from the Soviet Union. Five of these survive to this day and are currently stored. While their operational use effectively ended in 1996, they are used on occasion for test-firing different types of ammunition. The last official tests were carried out in 2008.
The main self-propelled artillery vehicle in the Serbian Army is the 2S1 Gvozdika. Some 120 vehicles were brought from the Soviet Union back in the late 1970s. For some time, the Serbian Army officials were interested in replacing the 2S1 Gvozdika with some domestically developed vehicle. However, this plan appears to be abandoned as of recently. The 2S1 Gvozdika is to be modified and improved in the hope of increasing their service life for the years to come. Not much is known about this project at the moment.
For a long time, the Serbian Army had intended to replace the aging 2S1 Gvozdika with a more modern vehicle. The development of such a vehicle could go in two directions, either using a tracked or a wheeled chassis. The Serbian military decided for the latter option, as it was much cheaper and easier to produce and develop. This would lead to a series of different types of self-propelled artillery vehicles. Probably the most successful design is the NORA B52.
The NORA is a self-propelled artillery vehicle that consists of a rotating compartment where the 152 mm main gun is located and the forward-mounted crew compartment. The rear gun compartment can fully rotate and fire at any point around its arc, although depression is limited when firing over the forward compartment. The basis for this vehicle is the 8 x 8 Kamaz 6560 truck. Currently, a small group of these are in service with the Serbian Army. It is also available to any potential foreign buyers, with the possibility of changing the gun caliber from 152 to 155 mm.
Other than the NORA, the Serbian military industry developed a series of self-propelled artillery vehicles. These followed the same pattern of using different 6 x 6 truck chassis and mounting the main weapon unit to the rear. One of the earliest such projects is the 122 mm D-30/04 SORA. The 122 D-30/04 SORA was a project based on the FAP2026 BS/AB truck and armed with a 122 mm howitzer. While it was designed as a cheap solution for improving the mobility of 122 mm howitzer, this project was likely abandoned. Other projects include the SOKO SP RR armed with the same 122 mm howitzer and the M09 armed with a 105 mm howitzer. The fate of the two other projects is also unclear.
One of the newest self-propelled artillery projects under development is the Aleksandar (Александар). It is a 155 mm artillery system that is placed on a 8 x 8 chassis. It is a modern vehicle with an all-around firing arc and an automatic loader system containing 12 rounds.
The BRDM-2 is an old Soviet-era armored vehicle that is used as the main reconnaissance vehicle of the Serbian Army. Each Tank and Mechanized Battalion command unit has 3 vehicles attached to them. During late 2020, the Serbian Army began receiving the improved version, the BRDM-2MS, as a donation from Russia.
In 2008, the Serbian military industry began a project of developing a highly mobile, well protected and armed infantry transport wheeled vehicle. This would eventually lead to the development of the Lazar series of 8 x 8 armored combat wheeled vehicles. Currently, the Lazar-3 is adopted in small series for service. The Lazar-3 is well protected and can be armed with a selection of remote-controlled weapon systems, including 12.7 mm heavy caliber machine guns and up to 30 mm cannons.
In the early 80s, a new series of armored cars, the Borbeno oklopno vozilo or ‘BOV’ (English: combat armored vehicle), was developed by Maribor on the chassis of the TAM-110 truck. The first prototype was built in 1983, after which small-scale serial production began. Today, the BOV series is used to fulfill various tasks, including as a military police vehicle, ambulance, anti-tank, and anti-aircraft roles. An improved version of the vehicle is also currently in domestic development.
A possible replacement for the BOV series is the newly developed Miloš BOV M16 4 x 4 multi-purpose armored vehicle. The Miloš was developed and built by the Yugoimport. It is a highly modular system that can be equipped with different weapon options, ranging from machine guns, cannons to anti-tank guided missiles.
During 2012 and later in 2017, the US Army donated a group of some 47 HMMWV (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle), better known simply as Humvees. These vehicles are mostly allocated to Serbian anti-terrorist units.
Infantry fighting vehicle
The Borbeno vozilo pešadije or ‘BRP’ (English: infantry fighting vehicle) M-80 was designed during the 1970s as a replacement for the older M-60 armored personnel carrier. The M-80 introduced a number of improvements, like a fully rotating turret armed with a 20 mm cannon and two anti-tank missiles.
Between 1976 and 1988, around 658 M-80s were built. There were a number of modifications based on it, including a command vehicle, anti-aircraft version, ambulance vehicle, etc. Due to its late development and the collapse of Yugoslavia, not all intended modifications and conversions were implemented or were built in limited numbers. After 2017, there were attempts to improve the M-80’s overall performance by adding better protection and newer equipment. This version is known as the M-80AB1. This is actually an extended development of an earlier attempt to increase its efficiency. While it is speculated that it would enter service, it has not yet done so and its fate is currently unknown.
After 2006, the Serbian Army had some 542 M-80 vehicles. The M-80 was used to equip two Mechanised Battalions in each Army Brigade. The Mechanized Battalion is divided into one command unit with one vehicle and three Companies equipped with 13 vehicles each, for a total of 40 M-80. The surplus vehicles ended in military warehouses.
In the late 1970s, the JNA operated some 200 BTR-50PK and PU armored personnel carriers. In 2006, there were some 40 such vehicles still in use. Of these, 12 were allocated to each Tank and Mechanised Battalions (one per Battalion) to act as a command vehicle. There were attempts to increase the firepower by adding a 30 mm cannon-armed turret on top of this vehicle, but the project was not adopted.
Self-propelled anti-aircraft vehicles
The self-propelled air defense missile systems that the Serbian Army uses are mostly composed of Soviet-era equipment. These include the 2K12, SLO S-10M and the Strela 1M. The Serbian Army also had in its possession a small number of one of the newest Russian Pantsir S1 air defence missile systems. The base of this vehicle consists of an 8 x 8 KAMAZ-6560 truck and is armed with twin 30 mm cannons and 12 missiles. These vehicles were another Russian donation received during early 2020. The Serbian Army also has a number of aging M53/59 Praga armed with two 30 mm cannons. While not in service, its chassis was used for a number of different anti-aircraft and self-propelled projects that ultimately were not adopted.
Another recent development is the PASARS-16. It consists of a Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft gun in combination with two short-range anti-aircraft rockets. Small numbers of PASARS-16 are currently in service.
In October 2019, during a joint military exercise between the Serbian and Russian armies, an S-400 missile system was present. While there were talks about potentially acquiring this weapon system, due to its price, it is unlikely that the Serbian Army will be able to acquire this system any time soon.
During late 2020, Serbian media began to circulate news that Serbia, through Jugoimport SDPR (a state-run weapon manufacturer and trader), wants to buy the Chinese FK-3 missile defense system. By 2021, little is known about if it was political propaganda or if it will be implemented in the future
Self-propelled multiple rocket launchers
The Serbian Army has a number of different self-propelled multiple rocket launcher vehicles. The oldest vehicle, which was developed back in the late 1970s, is the M-77 Oganj. Its main weapon consists of 32 rocket tubes that could fire 128 mm rockets were placed on a 6 x 6 FAP 2026 BS/AB truck. Another vehicle, which was developed later during the 1990s, is the M-94 Plamen-S. It is similarly armed to the previously mentioned vehicle, but the difference is that it was placed on the 6 x 6 TAM-150 truck chassis. The largest and most sophisticated long-range multiple rocket launcher vehicle is the M-87 Orkan. Its development was initiated in the late 1980s by the JNA with financial support from Iraq. The start of the Yugoslav 1990s Wars stopped its development and only a small experimental series was built. The Serbian Army has in its inventory a small number of the modified Orkan vehicles which have only four 262 mm launchers (of an original inventory of 12) mounted on the 8 x 8 9P113M2 truck chassis.
During the early 2010s, work on the new experimental LRSVM (Lanser Raketa Samohodni Višecevni Modularni) self-propelled modular multiple rocket launcher, known as the ‘Morava’, were undertaken. It was designed as a highly modular system that could incorporate different types of armament (rocket ranging in caliber from 107 to 129 mm).
At the end of 2020, the Serbian weapon industry began developing a new series of modular rocket systems. These include the Tamnava, which is armed with different calibers of rockets, a modernized version of the Oganj M-18 and the replacement for the Orkan, known as the Šumadija. They are currently marked for export and their use by the Serbian Army is anticipated in the future.
In the last few decades, all of the major armies around the world have shown an interest in the development of remote-controlled devices. These are to perform various tasks intended to supplement or even replace human soldiers in dangerous situations. The Serbian Army also showed interest in the development of these unmanned ground vehicles (UGV). There are a number of different projects, including the short-range anti-tank system named Милица (Eng: Milica) and the Miloš Remote Control Unmanned Platform (Милош ДУБП – Даљински Управљива Безпосадна Платформа). These vehicles are currently under development and in use in limited numbers with the Serbian Army.
For supporting the Tank and Mechanised Battalions, the Serbian Army has in its inventory a number of engineer support vehicles. These include the MT-55 armored vehicle-launched bridge, which is based on the T-55 tank chassis. The JVBT (based on the T-55A chassis) and the M-84ABI (based on the M-84) are used for recovery, earthworks, lifting loads etc. Each Tank and Mechanised Battalions has one M-84ABI or JVBT and two MT-55 vehicles.
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