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Yugoslavia: Ground Forces
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Defense Organization > Armed Services > Ground Forces


The ground forces, or army, led the armed services in personnel. In 1990 the army had 140,000 active-duty soldiers (including 90,000 conscripts) and could mobilize nearly 450,000 trained reservists in wartime. The army comprised several major service branches, including infantry, armor, artillery, and air defense, and smaller support branches such as the signal, engineering, and chemical defense corps.

The army was organized into three military regions and ten army corps headquarters. The military regions and corps headquarters were responsible for forces and operations in three strategic areas: Slovenia and northern Croatia; eastern Croatia, Vojvodina, and Serbia; and Kosovo and Macedonia. In 1990 the army had nearly completed a major overhaul of its basic force structure. It eliminated its old divisional infantry organization and established the brigade as the largest operational unit. The army converted ten of twelve infantry divisions into twenty-nine tank, mechanized, and mountain infantry brigades with integral artillery, air defense, and antitank regiments. One airborne brigade was organized before 1990. The shift to brigade-level organization provided greater operational flexibility, maneuverability, and tactical initiative, and it reduced the possibility that large army units would be destroyed in setpiece engagements with an aggressor. The change created many senior field command positions that would develop relatively young and talented officers. The brigade structure also was more appropriate at a time of declining manpower.

Tank brigades comprised two or three battalions. They operated about 750 Soviet T-54 and T-55, 290 Yugoslav M-84, and some United States-made M-47 tanks. The LCY held about 550 Soviet T-34 and United States-produced M-4 tanks in storage as reserves. The army's tanks were in many respects its most obsolete forces. The T-54/-55 was a frontline model during the 1960s. The M-47, T34, and M-4 were tanks of World War II and the early postwar era. Domestic production of the M-84 (basically a version of the Soviet T-72 built under license in Yugoslavia) was slowly providing the army with a late 1970s and 1980s model.

Mechanized infantry brigades lacked sufficient mechanization. In 1990 fewer than 1,000 armored combat vehicles and personnel carriers served almost 50,000 troops in frontline infantry units. Far fewer than one-half of all brigades were substantially mechanized. The majority of mechanized units were concentrated in eastern Croatia, Vojvodina, and Serbia along what would be the main axis of a Warsaw Pact invasion of Yugoslavia.

The army had over 400 M-980 armored combat vehicles and 300 M-60P armored personnel carriers produced domestically. The infantry also operated more than 200 Soviet-made BTR-152, BTR40, and BTR-50 armored personnel carriers, which had been purchased in the 1960s and 1970s. It had 100 M-3A1 half-tracked personnel carriers produced by the United States and a small number of new Romanian TAB-72 armored personnel carriers. Armored reconnaissance vehicles included a few older Soviet BTR-40s, newer BRDM-2 models, and domestic BOV and M-8 vehicles.

Artillery regiments were well equipped with Soviet, United States, and domestic systems. Soviet artillery in these units consisted of approximately 1,000 towed 122mm howitzers, 130mm guns, 152mm gun/howitzers, and 155mm howitzers. There were about 700 older United States 105mm and 155mm towed guns and domestically produced models such as the M-65 in the artillery regiments. Towed pieces were very important for operations in the country's mountainous terrain. Artillery units operated Soviet 100mm and 122mm and Yugoslav-produced 105mm M-7 self-propelled guns. Those units had over 6,000 82mm and 120mm mortars, including a self-propelled 82mm mortar mounted on an M-60PB variant of the standard armored personnel carrier.

Artillery units operated several battlefield missile systems including 160 128mm YMRL-32 and M-63 multiple-rocket launchers. The arsenal included four launchers for Soviet FROG-7 surface-to- surface missiles. First fielded in 1967, the unguided FROG-7 had a range of 100 kilometers.

Antitank regiments had towed antitank guns, recoilless rifles, and Soviet antitank guided missiles. Antitank guns included 75-mm, 90-mm, and 100-mm models. They were Sovietproduced with the exception of the 90mm M-63B2, which was manufactured domestically. The recoilless rifles were manufactured domestically and included 57mm, 82mm, and 105mm models. Two self-propelled 82mm recoilless rifles could be mounted on an M-60PB armored personnel carrier. Antitank guided missiles were the Soviet AT-1 and AT-3. They were used in both antitank and infantry units, but because of their early vintage, effectiveness against advanced armor was uncertain. The fourwheeled BOV-1 armored reconnaissance vehicle could be equipped with six AT-3 launchers to serve as a highly mobile antitank platform.

Larger army units had considerable tactical air defense assets, designed to defend major troop concentrations against enemy air strikes. The ground forces had four surface-to-air missile regiments and eleven antiaircraft artillery regiments. The former operated Soviet SA-6 mobile medium-range surface-to- air missiles as well as large numbers of shorter-range portable SA-7 and vehicle-mounted SA-9 missiles. Short-range systems also were employed in infantry units.

Yugoslav antiaircraft artillery regiments operated over 5,000 guns. Self-propelled gun systems included the Soviet-made 57-mm dual ZSU-57-2 gun systems and the domestically produced triple 20mm BOV-3 and dual 30mm BOV-30. Large numbers of towed antiaircraft guns of many calibers were in the inventory. Of both domestic and foreign origin, they included pieces purchased from the United States, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, and Sweden.

In general, the army's major deficiencies were its lack of adequate firepower and mobility. Infantry units were insufficiently mechanized to maneuver on a modern battlefield, and tank forces were largely outdated. Using equipment from the Soviet Union, the United States, and other countries, the ground forces had serious logistical problems, including irregular ammunition supply and maintainance of many nonstandard weapons systems. The army lacked sufficient fire support from the air force, although by 1990 the latter was acquiring additional ground attack aircraft and helicopters to perform this mission. The army emphasized developing or obtaining more effective vehicle-mounted and portable antitank guided missiles and antiaircraft missiles. A shortage was evident in advanced target designation systems including infrared sights and laser rangefinders.

Data as of December 1990

Last Updated: December 1990

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Yugoslavia was first published in 1990. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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