Before the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1992, the nation managed a rather healthy military industrial base which did not force a complete reliance on importing Soviet-originated equipment. A local Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) solution eventually became the "BVP-80" of 1980 which, despite being entirely developed in Yugoslavia, was clearly influenced in its design and field capabilities by the proven Soviet-era BMP vehicle family. The Yugoslavian vehicle was produced throughout the 1980s and into the early part of the 1990s prior to the breakup of the nation. Several notable variants emerged from this venture and, because of the division of the Yugoslavian state, several operators were eventually realized before the end - these remain Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia, countries created from the Yugoslavian breakup.
Requiring an all-modern solution to fulfill a standing IFV requirement, an indigenous approach was undertaken by Yugoslavia during 1969 to which a pilot vehicle was witnessed in 1974 and a public unveiling followed in 1975. An extensive evaluation period then followed before formal service adoption of the design took place in 1982. The original designation was M-980 before the designation of "M-80" officially marked the vehicles. The subsequent production effort yielded 835 of the type.
The design was given a standard-operating crew of three - driver, commander, and gunner. The driver was seated at front-left with the vehicle commander to his rear and the turret over center, leaving the rear of the hull for transporting up to six combat-ready infantrymen (seated back-to-back on two benches). Vision blocks and firing ports along the rear of the vehicle allowed these occupants to engage nearby enemy infantry with their personal weapons. A hinged double-door arrangement at the rear hull wall allowed the passengers to embark/disembark at speed and under relative protection. The internal arrangement forced the engine to be installed at front-right in the hull. The vehicle used a very shallow glacis plate - a very defining physical characteristic of the Soviet BMP family.
Primary armament for the base vehicle became 1 x 20mm M-55 (HS 804) autocannon which was afforded up to 400 projectiles form onboard storage. The 9M14 "Malyuka" (NATO: AT-3 "Sagger") Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) formed the long-range tank-killing capability of the vehicle and a pair of these missiles were carried (the launchers set over the rear section of the turret). Secondary armament became a 7.62mm machine gun fitted coaxially in the turret with 2,000 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition carried as well as any personal weapons carried by accompanying infantry.
Armor protection was of aluminum and titanium and a full NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) suite protected the crew/passengers from potential airborne battlefield dangers while an integrated fire suppression system helped to limit damage from onboard fires as a result of direct hits from enemy munitions. The diesel engine was designed to produce its own smoke allowing the M-80 to generate a smoke screen to shield the vehicle from enemy eyes.
Drive power was originally centered on a French-based engine though local-license production of the West German Daimler-Benz OM-403 model (outputting at 320 horsepower) allowed for an improved vehicle variant to quickly supersede the original. Five road wheels were fitted to each hull side with the drive sprocket at front and track idler at rear under a conventional track-and-wheel arrangement. Maximum road speeds reached 65 kmh with operational ranges out to 500 kilometers. An inherent amphibious quality (requiring little preparation beforehand) allowed the vehicle to ford water sources though no more than 8 kmh (propelled through the water by the motions of the tracks). The torsion bar suspension system provided cross-country travel support and allowed the vehicle pacing with other mechanized forces.
The initial production model was known simply as the "M-80" and this offering fielded the aforementioned French-originated engine of 260 horsepower. However, these vehicles were not well-received and an improved form, the "M-80A", was quickly rushed into service after no more than a year of operating the original M-80 stock - the new variant showcased the more powerful Daimler-Benz 320 horsepower engine. The M-80A KC was developed as a company-level command vehicle while the M-80A KB followed suit as a battalion-level command vehicle - both given additional communications gear for the role. The M-80A Sn was a dedicated armored ambulance lacking the original's turret but holding room for up to four patient litters and associated medical personnel. The M-80A LT was developed as an Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) carrier fielding 6 x AT-3 "Sagger" ATGM launchers. The MOS became a self-propelled minelayer. A more modern version of the M-80A IFV is the M-80AK (also known as the "M-98A") which features an all-new powered turret housing a single 30mm M86 autocannon. The armament can be replaced with a dual-feed M89 gun as needed for a higher rate-of-fire.
The M-80 was entertained as a possible air defense vehicle through the prototype "M-80A1", which mounted 2 x 30mm autocannons to the turret, and the prototype "Sava M-90", fitting SA-13 Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs). The SPAT 30/2 was another offshoot, this version armed with 2 x 30mm autocannons.
Most of the active stock of M-80 vehicles remain the M-80A mark. Serbia is the largest operator with some 550 on hand.