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          • Year: 2003
          • On the Road to the West

          • 23. december 2003. - Aleksandar Radić Aleksandar Radić, "Defence & Security" Bulletin

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          The inert nature of conservative military spirit is in the natural conflict with the new matters. Military preparations for the war corresponding to the scenario of the previous armed conflict is a phenomenon which was reflected in our modernisation plans for supplying with the main weapons and military equipment (NVO). After the frustration experienced during the conflict with NATO, the high place on the list of wishes were taken by the air defence missile systems with broad range of destruction zones, new generation observing radars, multi-purpose combat aircrafts, passive electronic reconnaissance systems and electronic warfare. The Serbian and Montenegrin Army did not get any piece of new equipment since the moment when the complete strategic break took place. Former opponents became allies, with good perspective to turn the process of approaching the West into an open cooperation in the war theatres of the global conflict with terrorism.

          In the moment when the Serbian and Montenegrin Army (SMAF) is at the front door of the Partnership for Peace Programme, strategic decisions must be brought to determine the SMAF future. The priorities are changes of the vital elements of organisation, establishing civil democratic control, reorganisation, establishing new system of training for military professionals and soldiers. The transformation of the armed forces will take the greatest part of intellectual energy and the money, which can be spent for adaptation to modern standards. Supplies of new weapons and military equipment are presented as an important part of the reform process in the political officials' statements. The branches and services of the armed forces made plans for the development in the period until 2010, according to the dynamics of the reform and they also listed their needs for the new weapons and military equipment. It will be difficult to turn these wishes into reality, first of all due to the very thin budget, which can be enough only for regular expenses of the SMAF. In longer terms, the state cannot provide more than half of million euros per year and therefore larger supplies can be financed only out of the extra-budget sources. At the moment, the minimal and urgent needs can be partly satisfied only by the selling of surpluses of weapons and military equipment. Local military industry cannot satisfy majority of the needs, particularly in refer to advanced electronic devices and complex systems.

          Serious progress in modernisation can be achieved only through the choice of new strategic partners, who could provide deliveries of contemporary combat systems, through long-term contracts based on offers paid by counter-deliveries. An alternative model of payment, for the cases when local products cannot be offered, is giving the part of ownership in local companies manufacturing weapons and military equipment to foreign companies. The prerequisite for negotiations is breaking out of the encirclement of "silent embargo", characteristic for a number of Western states, which have not built their trust yet when it comes to the region of the Western Balkans and SCG. Entering the Partnership for Peace Programme will open an opportunity to start reconstruction of the full cooperation. This will influence changing the plans for modernisation of the SMAF equipment, according to the interest of joint defence. The SCG defence strategy will also influence the list of priorities for supplies of weapons and military equipment.

          The departure of the first SMAF crews for the international missions, the need to strengthen defence against terrorist threats, particularly in the region, and the role of the armed forces in the crisis management in South Serbia defined the first steps in supplying with weapons and military equipment. In close future, the forces prepared for antiterrorist combat will have to receive contemporary communication equipment, tactic portable computers, special combat equipment and new vehicles. The elite forces, chosen to take part in the international missions and in managing local crises - due to the relative similarity of these tasks - will be able to use identical equipment. One of the problems, which should be taken into consideration, is possible supply with wheeled light armoured vehicles and armoured platforms for fire support, which are very useful in patrols and for control over the territory endangered by opponent guerrilla and terrorist groups. The NATO members, particularly armed forces of the USA, France and Germany developed or are developing the projects of new, advanced armoured universal wheeled vehicles. The SMAF is mostly counting at tracked armoured fighting vehicles, which cannot satisfy the needs of the forthcoming realistic tasks. The limited number of the old-fashioned wheeled vehicles M86 (BOV-VP) and BRDM-2 cannot satisfy the needs, particularly for protection and fire support of the forces in the international missions.

          It is necessary to establish the system for control of the administrative border between South Serbia and Kosovo, the system that should include various sensors and computers to process information. It would be advisable if a unit of reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles could be financed and formed. Therefore, the need of engaging men in risky tasks of direct surveillance could be diminished.

          Maintaining constant military presence abroad and manoeuvres in the country impose the need to strengthen and modernise the fleet of transport aircrafts and helicopters. Air Force does not have the aircrafts capable of flying the distances to Afghanistan or other possible regions where the SMAF units will be engaged. The transport of staff and technique, supplying and regular contacts will necessarily be organised by rented aircrafts. The experiences of other countries in transition show that the long-distance missions became the constant reality for the armed forces and therefore they bought heavy transport aircrafts or they intend to do so. The SMAF has problems even with transport in its own territory and to shorter European distances, since after 2006 only one An-26 will stay in use. The number of transport helicopters now in use is - compared to the operative needs - symbolic. This summer, only up to three helicopters could be used for extinguishing fires at Montenegrin coast. Beside specifically military tasks, helicopters Mi-8 are needed as a state resource for interventions in the cases of natural or artificial catastrophes and for transport of the injured.

          Among three branches of the SMAF, Air Force and Air Defence are suffering most, due to the age and obsoleteness of the equipment. The vital parts of the system, particularly in the defensive segment of the air space defence, are hopelessly obsolete, facing possible challenges. NATO air raids caused great damage in the of technical maintenance system. The crisis of repair system threatens to down even few usable aircrafts. At the moment, 111 aircrafts and helicopters are waiting to be repaired.

          The Navy became the victim of changed roles and tasks. The SMAF, or at least the part of it, cannot count at its capacity to defend coast region efficiently and aggressively. The destiny of war ships is likely to be limited to the period of time in which they can survive without modernisation and with very small amount of money for capital repair. The Navy, however, does not want "to surrender" and they prepared the plan to save the part of fleet until 2010. They are ready to give up a part of the fleet list and other weapons and military equipment, which have no perspective under the realistic conditions of usage and maintenance. The Navy has the least chance to fight for "the slice of pie" aimed for the modernisation.

          The dominant role of the Army had an impact on development plans of the SMAF. At the moment, the only direction money is going, in practice, is for supplying weapons and military equipment for the infantry. So far, mainly special units and the troops located along the administrative border with Kosovo have received ballistic protection gear and a number of weapons for fire support at the company level. At the tactic level, all parts of the Army need modern radio equipment. The infantry is equipped with anti-tank weaponry, which cannot be used efficiently against modern armoured vehicles. New missile systems have been developed locally but due to the lack of finance, they are not produced in series nor have they been introduced in active units or at least in some of them.

          Classic branches of the army - armoured and mechanised units and artillery cannot count on receiving more than a symbolic number of new vehicles and equipment by 2010, and this is only in case of the needs connected with the international operations. The problem of bringing equipment to the modern standard level can be solved by modifying existing equipment. T-72 and M-84 tanks need refreshed electronic warfare, particularly fire control systems. The infantry combat vehicles M-80 will have to get new arms since unstabilized gun with 20 millimetres calibre and obsolete anti-tank guided missiles ("maljutka") are not so respected trump cards in modern battlefield. The main disadvantage of the artillery is the dependence on the towing vehicles and the obsoleteness of the fire control systems. One of the acceptable solutions is to place the barrelled artillery weapons on the terrain vehicles with high load-bearing capacity. In the 80's, the Military Technical Institute was developing the model of a gun-howitzer, with 152-millimetre calibre, placed on the truck. Highly expensive tracked armoured artillery vehicles will remain too much of an expense for the SMAF in the long time period. The efficiency of the fire support can be brought to a higher level, buying guided munitions, which would make the weapons more precise.

          Total list of the needs in the SMAF is depressively long and certainly many of them will not be satisfied. Many brigades and smaller units will be the victims of the necessity to locate the modest financial funds to the priorities, which will be very difficult to choose. The risk of misbalance in satisfying the development plans of branches and services is extremely high. It will not be easy to save the victims in a very tight balance of the needs in arms and military equipment, the training expenses and regular needs. It can be expected that numerous SMAF units will loose the reason of existence, due to the total obsoleteness of their equipment or impossibility to obtain its maintenance. All countries in transition have passed along the similar, tough road. At the beginning, as one of the basic foundations of the reform, they chose to adapt the weapons and military equipment of their armed forces to NATO standards. Budget limits directed the ambitious plans for modernisation to satisfying urgent needs, while the greatest part of the inventory of the Warsaw Pact was still used. The time passed and, step-by-step, the units that had the equipment with no future were erased out of the organisational list. This process reached a dramatic degree in some countries and the example of the Czech Armed Forces is very instructive: only eight MiG-21 combat aircrafts and one battalion of thirty T-72 tanks are all that is left out of once respected Warsaw Pact force.

        • Tags: military, Serbia, Montenegro, army, nato, Security, smaf, armed forces, risc, weapons
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