In the late 1980’s the former Yugoslavia produced a new main battle tank called M-84A. It was the strongest tank within their ranks and it was very interesting for the third world countries as it has proven to be capable of taking on the modern MBTs of the time. Additionally, it has proven to be very reliable in harsh desert conditions and the Kuwait ordered some 240 units for their army. They saw some action during the 1st Gulf War and they proved to be quite competitive with the other tanks deployed on that theater.
After that the M-84A took part in the 1990’s wars in former Yugoslavia and it has shown several different faces during that time. In Croatian conflict it has proven to be quite troublesome, mainly because of the inadequate use, without a proper infantry support in urban warfare. It performed much better in Bosnia and finally in Kosovo conflict it has shown its full potential as only a few of those machines were lost despite the heavy bombardment from the air and often close quarters clashes with the KLA. Still, even then it was pretty much obsolete in many aspects and the proper revamp was needed.
Development and basic characteristics
In 2004 the new concept called the M-84AS (also mentioned as the M-84AB1) was shown to the public. The advancements implemented are providing the tank with much higher survivability as it is equipped with new modular NERA protection which enables it to sustain even the hits from 120mm SABOT ammo used in the modern western tanks. It also got a new Shtora anti-ATGM system and the ability to fire 9M119 Refleks guided anti-tank missiles. This made it competitive with the modern MBTs once again and many experts are calling it a sister tank to the Russian T-90A Vladimir. Still, these improvements weren’t carried out on the massive scale as the lack of funds halted the entire project. The entire process was to be finished until 2010 but in fact only a small amount of tanks was upgraded to the AS standard.
In the latter years the M-84AS got several new upgrades. First of all, it was adapted to host Arena-E APS. Also the new target seeking device called TOMS was introduced on the prototype. It was the initial idea that only the commanding tanks on the company level have TOMS integrated but later on the constructors realized that it would be much better if each tank would host such a device. All tanks should be also fitted with a GPS device and interlinked so each unit has a complete battlefield awareness of an entire battalion.
The main armament is still a 125 mm 2A46M smoothbore gun able to fire HE, AP, SABOT and ATGMs. Additionally, it has one coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun and one 12.7 mm AA machine gun. The later versions have the option of a 7.62 mm remotely guided AAMG. The ballistic software on M-84AS is inherited from its predecessor as it was always one of the finest software in its class, heavily surpassing the software used on the T-72 series (equivalent for the newly produced software for T-72B3).
All in all this is a decent main battle tank that is still capable of tackling even the most modern machines on the battlefield. The Kuwait government still has over 200 of these tanks within its army and the AS package of equipment will most likely be the upgrade they will choose. As for the Serbian army, the current financial situation will hardly allow the full upgrade of all 232 units, although the expenses of the upgrade are minimal compared to other solutions offered.