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

Author: Eric Sof

Updated:

The M80 Zolja (Wasp) is an anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher. It is a single shot system chambered in a 64 mm caliber. Military Technical Institute Belgrade designed the weapon in the former Yugoslavia. The rocket launcher is still produced in the two former Yugoslav republics, the Republic of Serbia and Northern Macedonia.

Design

The M80 Zolja is a recoilless infantry weapon for single use. The launcher and the rocket are combined into one unit. The M80 is similar to the US-made rocket launcher of the same type, the M72 LAW, but the M80 has better accuracy and effective range.

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

Its production started needing a small portable weapon that could allow each soldier to quickly destroy an enemy light armored vehicle, fortification, or soldiers without special training. The M80 Zolja was made from lightweight materials (fiber with reinforced plastic), making it relatively small and light. It means it is easily portable and can be added to the equipment of every regular soldier. However, the need for smaller dimensions is the primary reason the M80 Zolja has a much smaller caliber than other anti-armor weapons produced in the former Yugoslavia.

Launcher

The M80 Zolja launcher is telescopic and made of two tubes drawn from one to another. It is a single-use aluminum tube layered with fiberglass on the outside, which fires a pre-loaded rocket. It also contains a firing mechanism, sights (rear and front), carries handles, and two covers (front and back) to prevent dust from entering the tubes during transport.

The telescopic design significantly improved its size and made it smaller in transport mode than in the position for action. Changing ways from unarmed to armed is simple and easy and takes only a few seconds.

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

Rocket

The rocket used in the M80 Zolja anti-tank system is 64 mm caliber. The rocket is located in the back of the launcher and is made of an explosive warhead, stabilizer fins, and rocket engines. It can penetrate 300 mm of steel armor at 90 degrees. The rocket is fitted with contact or a piezoelectric detonator. The self-destruction mechanism is also incorporated in the rocket to be destroyed after 4-6 seconds of flight does not hit the target. Rocket fuel is burned only when the rocket is in the grain, and the rocket’s speed on the end of the tube is 190 meters per second.

For safety purposes, the rocket does not arm until it has traveled 10 meters. The empty tube cannot be reloaded. So once the rocket is launched, the tube is discarded. The back-blast area of the M80 Zolja is 30 meters. Though the Zolja can be used inside buildings, there should be no walls at least 2 meters behind the gunner.

Operational use

The M80 saw action during the Yugoslav wars. It is used by the former Yugoslav republics, including Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Northern Macedonia.

Despite limited accuracy and penetration, the M80 Zolja has its advantages. This weapon is cheap to produce, simple to use, small, and light. With a little extra training, one man in every squad could carry one or two, giving each squad some anti-tank or anti-vehicle capability. In the late 1970s, Yugoslavia also adopted a more capable M79 Osa reloadable rocket launcher with superior range and accuracy.

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
Share on: