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Ministry of Defense

In 1990, the Yugoslav People's Army [YPA] consisted of the ground forces, air force, and navy. They were organized into four military regions including the Split Naval Region. The regions were further divided into districts that were responsible for administrative tasks such as draft registration, mobilization, and construction and maintenance of military facilities. Of the YPA's 180,000 soldiers, airmen, and sailors, more than 100,000 were conscripts.

In mid-1990, the army numbered 140,000 active-duty personnel (of which 90,000 conscripts); air force, 32,000 (4,000 conscripts); and navy, 10,000 (4,400 conscripts, 900 marines). An estimated 450,000 reservists were available in wartime. The paramilitary Territorial Defense Forces (TDF) numbered 1 million to 3 million in 1990; 860,000 in regular training. TDF was largely funded by and under peacetime control of republic governments, and designated to fight either independently or under YPA command during an invasion.

Following a major force structure change in army in 1990, thirty brigades were formed, including tank, mechanized, mountain infantry, and one airborne brigade. Naval submarines, corvettes, and frigates were centered in Adriatic Fleet, administered from Split; smaller craft in both river and Adriatic commands; main mission Adriatic coastal defense. The Air Force operated over 400 combat aircraft (in twelve combat squadrons) and 200 helicopters. The main missions of the air force were to maintain air superiority over Yugoslavia and to support ground and naval operations. All services had a substantial reliance on imported heavy military equipment; most aircraft and naval vessels were manufactured domestically, following a strong effort to expand domestic arms industry in the 1980s.

In 1990, a dispute arose between Serbia and three of the other five republics. The disagreement concerned the structure of the federal government. The Republics of Slovenia, Croatia and BiH preferred a loose confederation in order to exercise greater autonomy. Serbia, on the other hand, wanted a more highly centralized federation in order to maintain its dominant role. This dispute resulted in the secession of Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina from Yugoslavia.

The role performed by the military in the breakup of the former Yugoslavia was critical to the evolution of the conflict in Bosnia. When the three Republics of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina [BH] declared their independence, they did not have separate armies. Before 1991, the JNA was a single army for all members of the former Yugoslavia, though its military centrality changed since 1974. Upon the successive declarations of independence of these three republics, some of the military personnel, who had been located in each of these Republics, left the JNA and reconstituted themselves as part of the newly created national armies of Slovenia, Croatia, and BH.

The JNA's overwhelming military superiority was not fully used against Slovenian forces which it could have easily crushed. Despite its control of approximately 30 per cent of Croatian territory, JNA forces experienced several problems. An estimated 25,000 draftees deserted, and the entire 32nd Corps, with its equipment, surrendered to Croatian forces in October 1991. According to Croatian sources, the JNA lost 618 tanks, 395 other armoured vehicles, and 100 aircraft during the fighting. In November 1991, the warring forces agreed to a JNA withdrawal from Croatia.

On 1 March 1992, Bosnia-Herzegovina became the fourth Yugoslav Republic to declare its independence from the former Federal Government. The first three were Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia. The BH declaration of independence caused a split in that former Republic along ethnic lines. The large Serbian minority, approximately 33 per cent of the population, had passed their own referendum opting to remain a part of Yugoslavia in November 1991. Bosnian Serbs boycotted the March, BH-wide referendum on independence. The Bosnian Muslims, 44 per cent of the population, and ethnic Croats, 17 per cent of the population, voted overwhelmingly in favour of secession. This sparked a rebellion among the Serb population and led to the bloodiest fighting to date in the former Yugoslavia.

The defeats in Krajina and later in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the role of the Yugoslav People's Army during the destruction of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia reduced the Army of Yugoslavia -- representing the remnants of the remnants of the onetime Yugoslav People's Army -- to a third-class role in Serbia and Yugoslavia. The Army has in many ways been eclipsed by the more politically dependable and better-equipped Serbian Special Force Police.

At the beginning of 1993, the JA troop strength was estimated to be 150,000 with 400,000 reserves. An additional 110,000 troops was nominally subordinated to the Defence Ministries of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (SRBiH) and the Serbian Republic of Krajina. These forces received instructions, arms and ammunition and other support from the JA and from the FRY. JNA units were typically kept below full strength in peace time, to be supplemented by reservists as needed.

With the collapse of Yugoslavia, the remaining Serbian military forces focused on the Model-21 plan for transformation of its organization and structure to conform to new security requirements. International sanctions prohibited other countries from selling or delivering any weapons to the Serbian armed forces. From 1996 to 1997 the defense budget dropped from US$5 billion US$1 billion. In 1997 the VJ had 114,000 members, 40 percent of which were conscripted soldiers. Given the shortage of financial resources and the halt in programs for technical modernization, the emphasis has been on creating improved organization and the maintenance of existing stocks of equipment.

As of 1997, according to one estimate, at least a half of the Army had anti-regime attitudes and supported radical reforms and a quick professionalization of the Army. They included special forces, the whole air force, military institutes, and many officers. Commanders of military regions, generals, and various services dependent on commands were genereally still loyal to the regime.

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Page last modified: 20-09-2013 19:03:22 ZULU