M80 Zolja (Wasp)
Disposable Anti-Tank Rocket Launcher
The M80 Zolja appeared around 1980 under the flag of what once was a unified Yugoslavia.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
Young readers may not remember that at one point in world history there stood a unified Yugoslavia. The nation also built up a fine local arms industry that provided many durable and effective solutions to the Yugoslavian military as well as foreign customers. One such development became the M80 "Zolja" ("Wasp"), a disposable, shoulder-fired Anti-Tank (AT) rocket launcher comparable in most respects to the American-made LAW series (including its general appearance and function). Design of the M80 fell to the Military Technical Institute of Belgrade with production coming from Sloboda Cacak.
The M80 fired a 64mm rocket-boosted projectile with armor-penetrating warhead out to effective ranges of 722 feet. The launch tube was a two piece system which was pulled (through a telescoping action) to full length from its compact, collapsed travel form. The tubes were pre-packed with the 64mm projectile already inside, made ready-to-fire in seconds. The system, as a whole, was a lightweight anti-armor solution with good range and armor-defeating capabilities for the period. A shoulder strap facilitated transport and weight was a manageable 3 kilograms.
The popularity of the M80, and weapons like it, has been attributed to their relatively low production cost, ease-of-operation, and general battlefield effectiveness. The projectile maintains penetration values of up to 300 mm of steel and several of these launchers could be set over the back of a single infantryman ready to deal with enemy armor the moment it was identified. Due to its local availability during the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s, the M80 was extensively featured in the conflict by all parties.
Despite its 1970s origins, the M80 is still manufactured in Serbia today (2015) as well as Macedonia. Global operators have gone on to include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Indonesia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Singapore, and Slovenia.