About 5,000 armoured vehicles 1947-1990.
Yugoslavia as a united country dates back from 1918, resulting from the merger of former Austro-Hungarian provinces, namely the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes with the Kingdom of Serbia. The new state was headed by Serbian royal House of Karađorđević, and recoignised internationally on 13 July 1922 in Paris and became officially the Kingdom of Yugoslavia on 3 October 1929.
Yugoslavian tanks in the Interwar
In the Interwar, Yugoslavia acquired limited armour to train with its infantry from 1936, with the reforms led by Marić, Minister of the Army and Navy, while Armijski đeneral Milutin Nedić was named as the head of staff. This year saw the formation of a tank battalion, consisting of three companies, each of three platoons of five tanks, all elderly Renault FTs. Orders for new tanks had been submitted, yet to be completed. Large-scale manoeuvres were held in Slovenia in September 1937, showing all but the lack of preparation of the army for a modern war.
Yugoslavian Renault R35 in manoeuvers at Torlak, 1940.
Despite of its many revealed shortcomings the four division strong exercize was considered a success for one aspect, to test the loyalty of Slovene and Croat reservists. Also together with many other equipments from Czechoslovakia, the army took delivery of eight Škoda S-1D tank destroyer tankettes. More importantly, more modern French tanks were ordered from renault in 1938 or 1939, of the R35 type, according to most sources, 54 tanks delivered before June 1940 and the fall of France.
Yugoslavia in ww2
By the start of 1941, the Yugoslavian Army could operate 6 motorized infantry battalions, part of three cavalry divisions, six motorized artillery regiments, and two tank battalions (110 tanks, FT and R35), plus a single independent company of tank destroyers. To have the infantry going, about 1,000 trucks has been recently imported from the USA. The grand total in case of a mobilization was 28 infantry divisions, three cavalry divisions, and 35 independent regiments (spread between border fortifications and combined detachments working as “alpine” units). The immense majority of the army’s ethnicity was Serb.
Soon before the German invasion, mobilized unit reached 70% and 90% of their strength and the army reached a total of 1,200,000 as the Blitzkrieg commenced in May 1941. It was organized into three army groups and the coastal defense. The army began to collapse quickly before the combined attack of the Germans, Italians and Hungarians, but offered some resistance, which lasted 10 days. Surrender occurred on 17 April 1941. Terms were quite harsh as a result, the country being comprehensively dismembered. Anyway, Slovene and Croat populations refused to fight and treated the invaders as “liberators” in many cases. Peace and partition under the axis rule meant also Croatia and Slovenia emerged as active allies. The state of Croatia, pro-German, included Bosnia and Herzegovina, what left of Slovenia, Kosovo, part of coastal Dalmatia, and was quickly rearmed.
The new Croatian Army was based on the Croatian Home Guard (only 16 infantry battalions and 2 cavalry squadrons) which was extended to 15 infantry regiments of two battalions each until June, and received in complement 35 L3 tankettes were supplied by Italy to the Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, or NDH. Some would be later captured by Partisans.
Partisan’s war up to victory
Two Serbo-Croatian Partisan groups fought against the axis, the communists (soon led by Josep broz Tito) and Četniks. However at some point Mihailović Chetniks fought with the axis, in an active collaboration. Under Italian commanded them together with Ustaše forces (Croatian Revolutionary Movement) in northern Bosnia, while the Chetniks targeted a Greater Serbian state, also using ethnic cleansing. They also used terror against socialist Partisans and their supporters.
Josip Broz Tito at Bihac, 1942.
On the other side, due to the alliance between Communist partisans and USSR, then allied to UK, Churchill quickly endorsed this movement and backed Tito with intensive weapons droppings, up to fully-fledged shipment of artillery, vehicles and tanks when coastal cities were recaptured (like Dubrovnik). The movement, backed by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia clearly led a fierce resistance against the axis, chiefly German and Italian occupying forces. At some point in May 1943, a substantial number of pockets of liberated territories existed, and operating from the mountains series of small to large scale guerilla tactics, Tito’s Partisans operated several large scale enemy offensives where the pivotal Battle of the Neretva took place until April 1944;
After the capitulation of Italy, the Wehrmacht took over the former Italian territories and scaled-up retaliation and large scale “pacification” operations, back by zealous Ustaše militias. However with the sixth offensive in late 1943-early 1944, Partisans were able to liberate most coastal cities, opening ports to allied support. The Seventh Enemy Offensive took place in western Bosnia (mid to late 1944), answered by Operation Rösselsprung. By 1945, a last general offensive by some 800,000 partisans (of which about 100,000 women) saw the Croatian state and the Wehrmacht decisively defeated. Probably the last battle of ww2 in Europe took plane in mid-May 1945 at Poljana.
Croatian Panzer Is in 1944.
In ww2 some Četniks groups meddled in active collaboration against Muslim Bosnians and received from Germany Panzer-Is according to one photo.
Tito’s years (1947-1990)
The Yugoslavian’s people army was born from Partisan units of World War II. The People’s Liberation Army of Yugoslavia (NOVJ) is considered as the direct forerunner of the JNA, created in Rudo (Bosnia-Herzegovina), 22 December 1941 but the army was created in March 1945, as the Jugoslovenska Armija, later celebrated as the “people’s” (“narodna”) army in 1951. This force was constituted from the ground forces, air force and navy, organized into four large military regions that partly match the nation’s frontiers. Si local recruitment was more or less matching Bosnian, Croatian or Macedonian populations, but the bulk of it was formed of Serbians. These were the Belgrade, Zagreb, Skopje regions, for a total of about 280,000, including 100,000 conscripts. This organization did not moved for the whole Cold War era.
On the Industrial side, the Army has been helped by a dynamic production and R&D and through exports rated as much as $3 billion it was the second largest industry after tourism. During Tito’s rule, the country was well equipped to face an invasion, with underground air bases and control centres buried deep in mountains. Yugoslavia was one of the few Warsaw pact countries to have an indigenous, efficient aircraft industry, like SOKO, covering most of Yugoslavian Air force needs.
The SOKO Orao was a competent ground attack aircraft, close in appearance and capabilities to the Franco-British SEPECAT Jaguar.
Tank-wise, this autonomous move was also real, as Yugoslavian developed several models for its needs, or built on existing Soviet models. The Yugoslav military-industrial complex produced tanks like the M-84 and many AFVs, like the BOV or BVP M-80 alongside a great number of artillery pieces, mortars and small arms.
The tank force was made of three battalions, with 31 tanks each spread into three ten tank companies. About 1614 Soviet T-54/T-55s, 73 T-72s, 443 M-84s, and a few M-47 tanks not in reserve were used before the Yugoslavian wars, but this conflict saw many vintage tanks leave reserves and fight, like T-34/85s, Shermans, M10, M18 and M36 tank destroyers among others. On the APC/IFV side, 955 M-80A IFVs and 551 M-60P APC were in service, all produced locally. In addition 200 BTR-152, BTR-40, and BTR-50 purchased in the 1960s-1970s were also in service, alongside 100 vintage M3A1 half tracks. Reconnaissance vehicles includes APC/Recce TAB-72 (Romanian-built), BRDM-2 and BTR-60s, and the locally-built BOV and LOV 4×4 armoured vehicles.
On the doctrine side, the Yugoslav army was permeated by the unique total war concept of “Total People’s Defence” (Opštenarodna odbrana). Drawn from Partisan’s war experience it was about waging a defensive war in depth, with border battles. The goal was to delay any invader long enough for the territorial units through partisan tactics, well helped by the mountainous nature of the territory.
Prior to Yugoslavia dissolution, the Army was reformed deeply: The old military regions were eliminated and brigade became the largest operational unit while Divisions became smaller, with twenty-nine tank, mechanized and mountain infantry brigades. This new structure presented a set of advantages, like greater operational tactical mobility, flexibility, and promotion of younger, better officers. 140,000 soldiers (including 90,000 conscripts) were in active duty, but a million trained reservists could be mustered in wartime.
In January 1990 the League of Communists of Yugoslavia was dissolved and soon each Yugoslav republic set up its own territorial defence forces based on existing manpower and AFVs inherited from the new brigades. In addition they had a new territorial defence acting as reserve forces. In general these new armies were sub-divided into infantry, tanks, artillery, air, signal, engineering and chemical corps. Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia became non-communist republic, but the Yugoslavian army remains.
The Yugoslavian wars (1990-97)
In April 1991 however, the government of Croatia formed the Croatian National Guard, considered as a paramilitary group. But the war really started when Slovenian and croatia forces took over by force Yugoslavian control posts on the borders. Considering this move a threat for sovereignty, the Yugoslavian Army attacked on 27 June 1991, Slovenian units on the borders and the interior, and the latter responded by besieging 10 days Yugoslav Army bases on their territory. After the Brioni Agreement was signed, the Yugoslavian Army evacuated Slovenia. War also erupted in Croatia on 27 June 1991, with a siege of the Yugoslav Army’s barracks. Many soldiers chose to desert and some officers swapped sides. In August that was the start of the major battle of Vukovar where tanks were deployed on both sides, but the Croatians were ultimately defeated.
By mid-October 1991, Dubrovnik and the Konavle area were hit. However after the Sarajevo agreement, the Yugoslavian army began to retire, until May 1992. Macedonia was also evacuated in March 1992, and from Bosnia and Herzegovina in May. Officially on 20 May 1992 the Army was dissolved and replaced by the newly formed Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the army of Serbia and Montenegro (FYROM) which inherited most of its equipments, including tanks and air force.
During its existence, the Yugoslav Army participated in many peace keeping operations, like the United Nations Emergency Force (1956-67) in the middle east, United Nations Yemen Observation Mission (1963), United Nations Iran–Iraq Military Observer Group (1988), United Nations Transition Assistance Group (1989), and United Nations Angola Verification Mission (1989).
Modern Combat Forces
Kuwaiti M84. The only Country in the Middle East to purchase 149 M-84AB, M-84ABK and M-84ABN types.
Serbia & Montenegro (FYROM)
M84AB1, an improved Serbian version of the M84.
As of today, Serbia operates 212 M-84s/AS’s. with an upgrade plan of 212 tanks to M-84AS standard.
They are in service with elite units, the 15th, 26th, 36th, and 46th Tank Battalions.
The latest evolution of the M84, the AS is distributed by Yugoimport SDPR in Serbia. It is said to be equivalent to the Russian T-90.
Croatia operates today 76 M-84A4s, with 52 M-84A5 standard programmed for 2020. In addition, Croatia maintains a fleet of 128 BVP M-80A IFVs, 126 Patria AMV APCs, plus 93 up-armoured ex-ISAF HMMWV Hummer, and 172 Oshkosh M-ATV, 40 MaxxPro and 20 RG-33 deployed with SFCOM (Croatian Special Forces Command) and SCOM, Military Police Regiment, and Croatian army in 2014-2015. SPAAGs includes 9 Strijela 10CROA1 and 44 BOV 20/3.
M95 Degman. A prototype for the Croatian Army based on the M84.
It was studied by Đuro Đaković specijalna vozila d.d. but was not adopted for budgetary reasons, pending possible exports of the extrapolated M-84D (like Kuwait). The M95 combines a new composite armour and the Elbit Systems RRAK Reactive armour, a 25 mm 2A46M5 smoothbore gun with an autoloader said to be 15% faster, and as a secondary armament a Kongsberg RWS remote machine gun.
Slovenian units operating with KFOR (SLOKFOR), in October 2007.
54 M-84 are currently modernized to the M-84A4 Sniper standard. Only 19 in service, the remainder are maintained in reserve for budgetary reasons. The main APCs are 85 Pandur I 6×6 vehicles produced under license, locally known as Valuk. The Army operated also some Humvee.
Bosnia & Herzegovina
16 M-84 MBTs are in service by 2008, and 50 more in reserve for budgetary reasons. At some point, 71 has been in service, together with 50 AMX-30, 45 M60A3 (1996 US aid program), 155 T-54/55 (15 transferred from Egypt). Other AFVs includes 10 Chinese Type 92 APCs in the HJ-9 AT version, 10 ageing Panhard AML 60/90, 25 AMX-10P IFVs, 103 BVP M-80A, 80 M113 (1996 US aid), 100 BOV of all types. Specialized units also counts 24 2S1 Gvozdika SPGs, and 33 ZSU-57-2 SPAAGs.
Yugoslavian Tanks in ww2
Yugoslavian FT, as April 1941. Few photos shows no apparent markings, the livery is probably factory olive green.
Yugoslavian R35, the most modern tank in service, delivered in 1940, just before the fall of France.
Yugoslavian Škoda S-1D/T-32 tank hunter
Disabled Renault F Kegresse of the Yugoslavian Army
Yugoslav Partisans managed to capture a lot of German and Italian hardware, but also used allied AFVs, to the point of combining and create specific types, like tanks deployed by the 1st Partisan division in 1944.
Indeed 75 American M3A1 or A3 Stuart were supplied by the British, and later on the 1st tank brigade was formed in Bari with also British-supplied M3A3 tanks. Fifty-five tanks and nine AEC armored cars were also delivered to Dubrovnik, which joined the 4th Yugoslavian Army. At Sibenik in October a large number of axis hardware was captured, including at least one 75 mm PAK 40 AT gun and qome quad-20 mm FLAK that ended on a few converted Stuarts.
According to Daniela Carlsson, five were converted and three still operational in 1949, alongside four M3A3 /quad Flak-38V, two M3A1/ 81mm mortar and one M3A3/ 150mm sIG33.
Some of the wacky Yugoslav conversions (Reddit)
Captured Panzer I used by Partisans
Yugoslavian Tanks of the Cold War
Bosnian Serb M18 Hellcat in 1995. An estimated 260 has been in service with the Yugoslavian Army.
Yugoslavian m36 “Topovnjaca”, Dubrovnik brigade, 1993. About 300 of these were still extant were the 1991 war broke out. It should be noted that about 40 SU-100 soviet-built tank hunter were also in service.
M74 ARV, a Sherman derivative, still in service by 1990 alongside M32/M32B1 ARVs, whereas most of the 630 Shermans purchased shortly after the war has been mothballed.
Bosnian Serb T34/85 with improvized add-on rubber armour against SPGs. In total 889 has been purchased shortly after the end of the war to USSR.
Ex-Yugoslavian M47 Patton. 319 has been delivered in the 1950s.
Like most Warsaw Pact countries, Yugoslavia adopted the T-54 and later the T-55 which formed the bulk of its armoured forces, in total with 1614 of these still active when the war broke out.
Upgraded Serbian T-72 with ERA, and local equivalent to KONTAK-5.
In first line were 73 T-72 MBTs and 443 locally-built/converted M-84s. These makes today the bulk of the Serbian Armed forces, but also Croatian, Slovenian and Bosnian ground forces.
BVP M80 IFV. This IFV has been largely produced and used in the Yugoslavian wars, now in service with Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia.
- MT-LB: 200
- OT M-60: 551
- BTR-50: 120
- BTR-60: 80
- TAB-72: 40
- M80A: 995
- BRDM-2: 50
- BOV: 317
BOV APC, almost 1000 locally-built.
Croatian LOV-1 APC
Yugoslavian Self Propelled AA artillery
Croatian ZSU-57-2 Sparka
Serbian Praga M53/59
- BOV-3/30 SPAAG: 100
- M53/59 Praga: 789
- ZSU-57-2: 100
Cold War Tanks