Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Military Illustrated Modeller 2011-08

With the cessation of hostilities at the end of WWII most of Eastern Europe found itself in the steely grip of Stalin's Red Army and NKVD. Not so Yugoslavia, for while Belgrade had been entered by Russian tanks it was the Yugoslavian partisan army under Comrade Tito who saw off the German army including the Waffen SS Prinz Eugen and Handschar Divisions, Mussolini's Italians and the Croat Ustasha. It was Tito's intention to keep Yugoslavia independent and outside the Soviet Iron curtain that was now descending. To this end, Yugoslavia invested heavily in military equipment, ironically mostly Russian. However they also developed an indigenous arms industry producing licensed copies of the French Gazelle helicopter, various indigenous light APCs, light attack jet trainers and a range of Kalashnikov derivatives and sniper rifles. The death of Marshall Tito in the mid eighties combined with the demise of Communism throughout eastern Europe saw the then leader of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milosevic decide to play the Serbian national card in this ethnically diverse nation. This in turn led to what has become known as the Balkan conflict. While the Slovenes were the first ethnic group to seek to secede from Yugoslavia, in a short time they were joined by the Croats, Bosnians and later the Kosovars. However it was in Bosnia and Croatia that most of the fighting occurred with the lion's share of JNA equipment remaining in the hands of Serb and Bosnian Serb units. The main stay of these forces were older vehicles such as Russian T-34/85s, T-55s and M-84s. These vehicles needed to be ferried from flashpoint to flashpoint and it was in this role that the MAZ 537 came into its own.