Expansion of the Serbian defense industry (part 3): The artillery systems

The MGS-25 & Nora B-52 howitzers (photo: W. Commons)

So far, the only new project that has been exported to a greater extent is the artillery system Nora B-52. This system is named after the gun-howitzer M84 Nora which was used by the Yugoslav army, and later by the Serbian army. A new howitzer has been developed because of global market demands for self-propelled artillery systems that reduce a number of servicemen and increase firepower. Its not any kind of new technology, but still it turned out that the Serbian defense industry has a promising perspective in this field.

The Nora B-52 system had been developing for many years, its conceptual roots appeared in the late Yugoslav period, and its first practical realization took place in 1984 by mounting the M84 Nora howitzer on a truck. At that time it was treated as an artillery weapon of the third generation. With the collapse of Yugoslavia, the project had suffered serious crisis, along with many other military plans. Scientific potential persisted even under sanctions in the 1990s, however, resources for the ultimate realization and production launch did not exist.

At the end of the 1990s, Yugoimport SDPR went into a new phase of system development, with several modifications. The main advantage of new system was a significant increase in firing range compared to the basic M84 Nora howitzer, increased from 28.5 km to 56 km, thanks to the new variant of 155mm projectile developed by the Sloboda Čačak company. The Nora B-52 is equipped with an autoloader and a command-information system that enables a significant reduction in crew size.

According to some estimates, its autoloader does not exceed 4 rounds per minute, but skilled crew can operate with a rate of 6 RPM. Nonetheless, it must be taken into consideration that all the characteristics of the catalog have not been verified in practice, and it is not entirely certain that the howitzer successfully passed an extensive series of developmental tests. The main part of the system is manufactured in the Complex Battle System factory in Velika Plana.

The Nora B-52 proved to be very competitive on the international arms market, with the main competitors being the French CAESAR, Swedish Archer, South African G6 Rhino, Israeli ATMOS, Czechoslovakian DANA and Slovakian ZUZANA. Despite several flaws compared to more advanced systems of this type, the Nora B-52 certainly has one advantage, which is a low price. For example, an export variant of Nora B-52 costs almost ten times less than the French CAESAR, which costs around seven million dollars per unit. This variant under the export mark M03 was exported to several countries, mostly those which are traditional buyers of the armament equipment of former Yugoslavia. Over 100 of these howitzers were exported to Myanmar, Kenya, Bangladesh and Cyprus, thus it represents the best foreign deal of the Serbian military-industrial complex, at least in terms of exporting a particular system.

The LRSVM Morava missile system is also a trump of the Serbian defense industry. In this field, former Yugoslavia have made a significant breakthrough, because when everyone in the Eastern Bloc copied the pattern of the Soviet BM-21 Grad, Yugoslav scientists came out with their own M-77 Oganj, a system which surpassed the Soviet competitor by its qualities.

The Morava multiple rocket launcher has been developed over the past six years and is based on the older Yugoslav M-77 Oganj and M-63 Plamen systems. It is designed as a modular, lightweight and universal version of all the aforementioned systems used by Yugoslavia, which means it can fire rockets of Grad, Oganj and Plamen, depending on a type of launcher placed on a truck. The system is more accurate than its predecessors and has the firing range between 8.6 to 52 km. It is equipped with fully automatic targeting control systems and can launch single rocket, partial ripple or full salvo, which can cover an area of 32 hectares. Rockets are launched directly form the cab or remotely form the vehicle. A crew of three prepares this artillery system for firing within 45 seconds. The launch vehicle is fitted with an Inertial Navigation System (INS), GPS unit and absolute encoders for automatic positioning.

Additional advantages of this system are reduced dimensions and increased mobility with respect to its predecessors, and for these reasons it is pretty useful for local conflicts that are currently dominating the world. By the end of 2015, the manufacturer announced that 30 units would be delivered to an unnamed strategic partner. Later, it was revealed that undisclosed country has been the United Arab Emirates, which received the last delivery in May 2018.

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.