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Expansion of the Serbian defense industry (part 2): The rocket potentials

Šumadija MRL (photo: Yugoimport)

In addition to the ALAS system, which is the main trump of country's defense industry, Serbia has developed the Šumadija multiple rocket launcher (MRL). This is the first long-range MRL system produced by an individual post-Yugoslav country. The former Yugoslavia had developed the Orkan, a high-quality MRL system with a range of 50 km, later increased to 70 km. The remaining Orkan systems were dispersed throughout the former Yugoslav republics, but Serbia inherited most units. Since the Orkan system was produced by the common industrial potential of all republics, its production was not possible after Yugoslavia's dissolution, however, a partial modernization was still possible by particular republics, namely Serbia and Slovenia.

The Šumadija system is thus a natural continuation of evolution of the older Orkan system, with far more ambitious development. As in previous cases, Serbia does not have all the conditions to develop the Šumadija project alone, therefore the country cooperates with other players in the international arena. The system is expected to be based on the Russian-produced Kamaz truck chassis, while the final testing will be carried out in Pakistan because Serbia has no polygons where it could test the 300 km range missiles.

The system will use two types of missiles, Jerina-1 and Jerina-2, named after royalty from Serbian medieval history. These two types of missiles also represent two versions of the Šumadija system. The Jerina-1 is a 400 mm rocket with range of 285 km (reduced due to convection) and it is anticipated to contain four to eight rockets per system, while the Jerina-2 is a 262 mm rocket with range up to 80 km and will be used on the same launcher.

The Šumadija MRL was unveiled in 2017 at the International Defense Exhibition in Abu Dhabi, showing a system that has not yet been subjected to final testing. The concept itself is rare in the world, similar to the American-produced M270 MLRS which has undergone many modernization changes, and even more similar to the Chinese-produced WS-2 system. If the system is finalized and goes into production, Serbia will be among the ten countries that produce missiles up to 300 km in range, as well as the leader of missile technology in the Balkans.

The BOV M16 Miloš combat vehicle is intended as a support system to the Šumadija MRL. It represents a multi-purpose off-road vehicle and a mini platform for various applications in the activities of military and police, including reconnaissance, command and control, anti-armor or anti-aircraft missions, homeland security, and so on, depending on the type of weapon mounted on it. Currently, there's high demand for the similar products on the global market. The Russian GAZ Tigr-M is the most visually similar to the Serbian counterpart, but the Miloš has mass twice as big as Tigr-M which makes it unique in its category.

The Miloš combat vehicle is manufactured in the Complex Battle System factory in Velika Plana, whose hall was built by Yugoimport SDPR in 2012 and virtually all armored vehicles from the company's program are manufactured in this Serbian town. The factory in Velika Plana was opened at a time when current Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić served as the Minister of Defense. Production of armored vehicles and artillery systems are the main products of this factory, but existing capacities are not very large. It employs around one hundred workers, given that a large part of production is done without human labor. Regardless of the fact that low-cost products are being adopted by the Armed Forces of Serbia, the bulk of production is intended for exports so investment in this and similar factories can be considered as one of the most profitable sectors of the state economy.

Serbia's defense industry has also begun developing a short-range air defense system called PASARS-16, yet the ultimate purpose and the market for this product is currently unknown. The PASARS-16 hybrid system represents a combination of Bofors 40 mm gun and two short range RLN-1C surface-to-air missiles, mounted on the domestic-made FAP 2026 six-wheeled vehicle. Taking into account that Russian Pantsir-S1 and TOR-M1 systems dominate the global market and have almost perfect performance, it is hard to believe that PASARS-16 can be competitive or serve the same purpose. More probably, the product is intended for poorer countries that do not have financial resources for expensive systems, or without access to it due to political reasons. The PASARS-16's RLN missile is based on the older Soviet R-13 air-to-air missile used by Yugoslavia.

During the wars in Bosnia and NATO's aggression in 1999, Yugoslavia tried to exploit air-to-air missiles converting them into surface-to-air missiles, with limited success. Actions have shown that certain perspectives of such missile applications exist, but only with overall modernization and integration, considering the improvised solutions did not give concrete results. Obviously, the conversion concept was not given up and Serbian scientists used it for the development of the PASARS-16 system. The RLN missiles of PASARS-16 are supposed to have operational range of 12 km and maximum ceiling of 8 km, which is respectable for this family of surface-to-air missile systems. There are currently two prototypes of the PASARS-16 system and the tests are ongoing, but it is not known whether and when the Serbia's Armed Forces is about to introduce this product into its inventory.

Vladimir Gujanicic

Vladimir Gujanicic served in the special forces of Serbia and finished his studies in history at the University of Belgrade. He regularly consults Fort Russ’ parent organization, the Belgrade based think tank, Center for Syncretic Studies on related matters. His specialty is modern history and the history of the Soviet Union.