M80 Zolja: Similar to M72 LAW but with better accuracy and effective range

Author: Eric Sof

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The M80 Zolja (Wasp) is an anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher in 64mm caliber. It was designed by the Military Technical Institute Belgrade during the time of the former Yugoslavia and is still manufactured today in both Serbia and North Macedonia.

Design

M80 Zolja anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher unarmed
M80 Zolja anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher ready for transport (Photo: XY)

The M80 Zolja is a lightweight, single-use recoilless infantry weapon that combines the launcher and the rocket into a single unit. It is similar to the American-made M72 LAW rocket launcher but offers improved accuracy and a greater effective range.

The M80 was developed to respond to the need for a compact and portable weapon that regular soldiers could efficiently operate without special training, capable of quickly destroying enemy light armored vehicles, fortifications, or soldiers. The launcher is made from lightweight materials such as fiberglass reinforced plastic, making it highly portable and suitable to be incorporated into the standard equipment of a regular soldier.

However, to achieve its compact size, the M80 Zolja is equipped with a smaller caliber than other anti-armor weapons produced in the former Yugoslavia.

Launcher

The M80 Zolja launcher is a compact and efficient weapon designed with a telescopic feature that allows it to be reduced in size during transportation. Constructed from durable aluminum and reinforced with fiberglass, the launcher comprises two tubes that can be easily extended or retracted. It is designed as a single-use device that fires a pre-loaded rocket and features a firing mechanism and front and rear sights for accurate targeting. Carrying handles and front and back covers have been added to ease transport and protect the launcher from dust and debris.

The unique telescoping design of the launcher allows it to be quickly and easily transformed from its transport position to an armed and ready-to-fire stance in just a few seconds.

The M-80 Zolja rocket launcher manufactured in former Yugoslavia
M80 Zolja (Photo: XY)

Rocket

The M80 Zolja anti-tank system is armed with a powerful 64 mm caliber rocket capable of penetrating up to 300 mm of steel armor at a 90-degree angle. The missile, located at the back of the launcher, is composed of an explosive warhead, stabilizer fins, and rocket engines. It is fitted with a contact or piezoelectric detonator. Also, it features a self-destruction mechanism that will activate if the rocket does not hit its target within 4-6 seconds of flight. The rocket is propelled by fuel ignited upon launch and propels the projectile to a speed of 190 meters per second as it exits the launcher.

For added safety, the rocket will not arm until it has traveled a distance of 10 meters. Once launched, the launcher tube is discarded and cannot be reloaded. It is important to note that while the Zolja can be used inside buildings, there should be no walls or obstacles within 2 meters behind the gunner due to the back-blast area of the launcher, which is 30 meters.

Operational use

The M80 Zolja launcher saw extensive use during the Yugoslav Wars and is still in service with several former Yugoslav republics, including Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Northern Macedonia.

Despite its limited accuracy and penetration capabilities, the M80 Zolja has several notable advantages. The weapon is inexpensive to produce, simple to operate, and lightweight, making it a popular choice among military forces. Its compact design also allows it to be easily carried by a single soldier, which gives small units the ability to take on anti-tank and anti-vehicle targets with minimal support. However, in the late 1970s, Yugoslavia adopted a more advanced version M79 Osa reloadable rocket launcher, which offers superior range and accuracy and could be a better option in some situations.

Technical features

Country of origin:former Yugoslavia
Type:Anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher
In service:1980-present
Caliber:64 mm
Overall weight:3 kg
Launcher weight:1.58 kg
Rocket weight:1.42 kg
Fuel weight:0.128 kg
Length (unarmed):800 mm
Length (armed):1200 mm
Length (rocket with cupped wings):664 mm
Muzzle velocity:190 meters per second
Effective range (target size of 2 meters):220 meters
Maximum range:1280 meters
Detonation mechanism:Point-initiated, base-detonated
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