The serious development of the military industry during the post-war period in Bosnia and Herzegovina begins in 2013. Prior to the 1992-1995 war, it was one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s economic development engines, later on being brought to the edge of existence, it is rising from the ashes in recent years, and recording continued growth.
The signing of a memorandum of understanding and strategic partnership with the US company „Howell Machine“, which was signed by the FBiH government at the end of 2013, was the beginning of a fresh start (SEEbiz, 2013).
It is about the so-called GOKO model (Government-Owned, Contractor-Operated) cooperation, in which the state remains a majority owner, and Howell Machine is managing, investing in and through its work bringing the funds back, while the technology also remains with a local company or its majority owner and small shareholders.
The ownership structure does not change, but the American partner establishes its management structure and assumes the obligation to invest funding within a certain period and introduce new technologies, open new jobs and increase productivity and profits. From this profit, one part returns to the funds, investment, and other is shared by the manager and the owner.
The strategic partnership was also signed by David Howell, the owner of an American-based company in Lewiston, the state of Idaho, which deals with manufacturing, development, and military-equipment weapons. The document specifies that factories remain owned by the FBiH but manufacturing and organization of work will be managed by an American company.
The cooperation implies the opening of new plants and also the conquest of new markets. The memorandum is scheduled for 10 years long projects. Five military industry factories located in FBiH will market products worth around EUR 100 million. A similar model of partnership between the Government and private companies in the military industry has worked successfully in the United States.
„Howell Machine“ successfully cooperated with the factories of „Igman“ from the Konjic and „UnisGinex“ from Goražde until the signing of the agreement. For the future, following the memorandum, in addition to these two companies, the US company will also manage the „Binas“ from Bugojno, and „Pretis“ and „Zrak“ from Sarajevo (SEEbiz, 2013).
David Howell, the owner of the Howell Machine, announced that the maximum effort will be invested in ensuring the product’s placement of the BiH military industry to new foreign markets.
The FBiH Government’s partnership with the „Howell Machine“ was supported by representatives of the US Embassy in BiH, the Ministry of Defence and BiH’s Ministry of Security as well as the Intelligence and Security Agency (OSA) (SEEbiz 2013).
The cooperation with „Howell Machine“ implies the opening of the United States market for products of BiH. The dedicated industry, especially since the company is not only working for the military but also for the civil market, where there is a high demand for ammunition produced in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Federation of BiH is operating on a twelve military industry factories, five of which are in the majority privately-owned “Pobjeda Technology”, “Pobjeda Rudet” and “AC Unity” from Goražda, “Koteks” from Tešanj and “Guma-co” from Bugojno. The majority state-owned companies are „Binas“ from Bugojno, “BNT-TMiH” from the New Travnik, „UnisGinex“ of Gorazde, „Igman“ of the Konjic, „Pretis“ from the Vogošća, “Vitezit” from Vitez and „Zrak“ from Sarajevo.
The initial plan for 2013 was to generate an annual turnover of EUR 40 million in the five plants covered by this project (Igman, Ginex, Pretis, Binas and Air), which would mean profit of EUR 1-1.5 million. And to increase turnover to EUR 100 million in 4-5 years, so the profit would be EUR 10 million.
The effects of cooperation with the US partnership company were immediately visible in 2014 primarily in „Igman“ and „UnisGinex“ with which „Howell Machine“ concluded contracts worth EUR 65 million.
While in 2010 the total turnover of the military industry was EUR 18.5 million, already in 2012, it came to about EUR 53 million, of which EUR 47.8 million relates to exports and about EUR 5 million to domestic trade.
In 2013, the turnover remained at approximately 2012 level and totalled approximately EUR 51 million, which was conditioned primarily by the fact that one delivery of equestrian Igman of EUR 5 million was not completed by the end of 2013, but in 2014, and one delivery of Pretis for Ukraine stopped (VeteranMagazin, 2015).
In 2014, the military industry ended the year with a 15 to 20 per cent increase in turnover compared to 2013, with further reductions in existing debts, which amounted more than EUR 70 million as of December 31st2010, since then being reduced to below EUR 50 million.
In 2016, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s military industry had a turnover of EUR 115 million, and the plan for 2017 was set at EUR 132.5 million. In 2016, the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina has provided EUR 1.5 million in development incentives to military industry firms, and a budget of EUR 2.5 million planned in 2017 (fokus.ba, 2019).
Also, exports of explosives and pyrotechnics in 2016 amounted to EUR 13.5 million and imports to EUR 8 million. Export performance is certainly much better when considering other products of the military industry that are not categorized as customs products in the customs tariffs.
In 2018, Bosnia and Herzegovina exported weapons and ammunition (mainly ammunition) worth around EUR 102.5 million, which is 5.7 per cent more than in 2017, when exports amounted to about EUR 96.95 million. Most of them were exported to Saudi Arabia, worth around EUR 38 million (I.Č., Klix.ba, 2019).
For the ten months of 2019, Bosnia and Herzegovina exported a total of EUR 81 million in arms, ammunition and military equipment and only EUR 6.2 million in imports. The largest amount of weapons, ammunition and military equipment, worth EUR 48.1 million, was exported to Saudi Arabia and Egypt (I.Č., Klix.ba, 2019).
BiH military industry is likely to achieve lower arms exports by the end of 2019 than in2018. According to the BiH Foreign Trade Chamber, the value of exported weapons in 2018 amounted to EUR 102.03 million (BIZNISINFO: A, 2019).
According to the available data, in 2018 the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations issued a total of 213 licenses for the export of weapons and military equipment, with a total financial value of EUR 232.97 million (I.Č., Klix.ba, 2019).
The same data (I.Č., Klix.ba, 2019) also state that in 2017, 224 licenses were issued for the export of weapons and military equipment, out of which 196 licenses were realized. Exports according to the licenses issued amounted to EUR 296.10 million, while the total value of realized licenses amounted to EUR 102.54 million.
In 2016, 201 permits were issued, out of which a total of 192 licenses were realized. Exports according to the licenses issued amounted to EUR 305.02 million, while the total value of realized licenses amounted to EUR 104.36 million.
The percentage of realization and the number of realized exports can be known only after their expiration. The permits issued in 2018 are still valid as explained by the BiH Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations.
The most important thing for the Federation of BiH’s military industry is that after years of stagnation and the struggle with debt, the time has finally come to catch up with the world and offer new Bosnia and Herzegovina products, the products that the Bosnians themselves Invented and built.
Military industry companies in Bosnia and Herzegovina – brief overwiev:
In BiH entity, FBiH is operating on twelve military industry factories. Five are in the majority privately-owned “Pobjeda Technology”, “Pobjeda Rudet” and “AC Unity” from Goražda, “Koteks” from Tešanj and “Guma-co” from Bugojno.
The majority state-owned companies are:, „Binas“ from Bugojno, “BNT-TMiH” from the New Travnik, „Unis Ginex“ from Gorazde, „Igman“ from Konjic, „Pretis“ from Vogošća, “Vitezit” from Vitez and „Zrak“ from Sarajevo.
Companies from the Federation of BiH market military products in 40 countries, out of which the most significant markets are: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United States of America, Pakistan, Bulgaria, Malaysia, Serbia, Afghanistan, Switzerland and Angola.
For the progress of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s military industry, it is important to begin with production of a 155 mm self-propelled howitzer. The complete howitzer is a domestic product. The main features of these artillery weapons are 40 km range, six grenades automatic loading, computer GPS guidance, 155 mm NATO 155 mm calibre and lightweight.
Another key thing for the further development of the military industry is the entry into mass production of the first Bosnian rifle. The product is under development. Fighter jets were once manufactured in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well.
“Igman” Konjic: When it comes to individual progress by companies in the military industry, the biggest one was made by „Igman“ from Konjic, which is a company that has struggled for survival for years. In 2013, there was a pre-war volume of production and exports worth KM 60 million a year, which with the technology available at the time, was its current production maximum.
The director of this company, Džahid Muradbegović, claims that „Igman“ is one of the five factories in the world that meets the highest standards of product quality and safety.
According to the 2015 business report (Salkić, 2017), Igman employed more than 1,000 workers and had a profit of EUR 16 million. This company had contracted contracts worth EUR 60 million in 2016. Igman produces ammunition. These are the ammunition of almost every calibre, manoeuvre ammunition and special ammunition, mainly sniper ammunition.
In 2019, Igman Konjic was the 9th largest exporter from Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2019, it had revenues of around EUR 72 million, exceeding the plan by as much as EUR 10 million. In March 2019, the Igman Company launched a new facility for the production of pistol ammunition (BIZNISINFO, 2020).
“Pretis” Sarajevo: The company from Vogošća had EUR 23 million contract in 2016. The production program of „Pretis“ includes mortar ammunition, artillery ammunition, tank and antitank ammunition, rockets, ammunition for infantry weapons and aircraft bombs. Before the war, “Unis Pretis” was the leading factory of the dedicated ammunition industry, but also of the civilian program. It employed 5,000 people, but the factory was destroyed during the war. After the war, „Pretis“ was divided into civilian and military programs (Salkić, 2017).
“Unis Ginex” Goražde: An extremely positive example is the “Unis Ginex”, which records the continuity of development in the production of initial capsules. In 2013 the company made a special step in the form of opening two new production lines, reaching production of 700 million capsules annually. This made the company the second manufacturer in Europe, behind the Swiss RULAg (ekskluziva.ba, 2014).
Given the contracted deal and the opening of two more new lines, it is expected that Ginex will soon reach the production of one billion capsules a year and become a leading European manufacturer.
The factory produces more than 300 types of initial capsules and detonators for civilian and military use – pistol, rifle, anti-aircraft, artillery ammunition and hand grenades. “Unis Ginex” also has technology and production lines for the production and processing of all kinds of initial explosives and various chemicals. In 2019, more than 600 workers of this company produced about one billion initial capsules of various types.
“Pobjeda Technology” Goražde: This Goražde-based company is engaged in the production of sports and pistol ammunition for the civilian program. It employs more than 180 workers. At the end of 2015, the company had revenue of EUR 6.5 million and in 2016 it contracted operations worth EUR 8 million (Salkić, 2017).
“Pobjeda Rudet” Goražde: At one time, these two companies from Goražde were a unique company, but after the war, they were divided. “Pobjeda Rudet“ produces electric and nonelectric detonators, detonating rods and detonator capsules. Their products are mainly used in mining and other civilian programs. According to official reports, in 2015 the company had a profit of EUR 224,000, and in 2016 it contracted jobs worth EUR 6 million (Salkić, 2017).
“Binas” Bugojno: The Bugojno company was created based on the famous factory „Slavko Rodic“, whose production program was based on ammunition, from mortar and artillery lighters and capsules to mines and cluster and hand grenades. At the time of the SFRY, about 3,500 workers worked at the factory. This company still has almost the same production program today. „Binas“ has been in trouble for a long time, but the situation in this factory has gone better. They have their hands full and in 2019 they even hired eighty new workers.
Although problems and old debts still exist, the FBiH Government has promised assistance. It will restructure the factory and solve the debt problem because „Binas“ has a unique production program, of high quality and value in the world. In 2016, Binas had KM 7.8 million of contracted business (Salkić, 2017).
Tehničko-remontni zavod Hadžići: It is possible to bring an old tank to the company and after a while, the tank will be as new, even improved. It’s the same with other armoured vehicles. These are the jobs dealt with by the TRZ from Hadžići – overhaul and modernization of military equipment. It successfully overhauled the American M60-A3 tanks, 155 mm howitzers, and various other artillery and armoured weapons. Everything is done according to strict NATO standards, for which it has the appropriate certificates. In December 2019, TRZ Hadžići exported the first quantities of the RPG 7 MX 2 handheld launcher manufactured at this overhaul. The TRZ Hadžići has manufactured and offers the following products: lightweight RPG-7Mx2 40 mm rocket launcher, multifunctional shield for police and security guards, armour vest, helmet with visor, armour inner vest, outer armour without armour protection, with straps, for domineers, wooden packaging, crates, a parachute for lighting. In 2016, the company generated a modest turnover of EUR 1.8 million (Salkić, 2017).
“Vitezit” Vitez: The firm from Vitez has been burdened with so many problems that even bankruptcy was considered recently. The workers did not receive salaries, they were not paid contributions. They were desperate, often fought on the streets of Vitez and sometimes Sarajevo for their jobs and the opportunity to retire. But the sun seems to have warmed them too. With the decision of the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina to approve the initiation of the financial consolidation procedure, the Vitezit explosives factory was saved from bankruptcy. Production at Vitezit was recently launched and the company had a turnover of EUR 2.5 million in 2016, unlike in 2015 when the turnover was at zero. The only company for the production of explosives for military and civilian use in Bosnia and Herzegovina today employs more than 200 workers. The explosive produced is not only for military use but is also used in the construction, mining and other civilian sectors, where more than EUR 7.5 million is spent on imports annually (Salkić, 2017).
“Koteks” Tešanj: This private company from Tešanj is one of the most successful in the production of equipment for the army and police, and has facilities in several locations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is the only Bosnian company producing equipment for NATO infantry units. Koteks is engaged in the production of military and police tactical equipment, footwear, fancy goods and various special accessories. Military and tactical equipment is developed on the basis of a US Army uniform and meets all tactical requirements that may be placed before reconnaissance, sabotage, counterterrorism, special and police units. Tesanj company produces uniforms for the army and police, protective vests – armour, emergency suits for law and order, the so-called turtle with elbow protectors, knees, lower legs, feet, with the option of adding the following optional elements: genital protectors, arm protectors, various holsters and handbags, then tactical, assault, patrol vests (various models). Koteks still manufactures tactical belts and holsters, boots and shoes for the military and police, as well as emblems and identification tags. The „Koteks“ vests and equipment are also used by the Montenegrin police (Salkić, 2017).
“Zrak” Sarajevo: This company deals with precision mechanics, optics, optoelectronics and electro-optics. It produces optical lenses, various optical filters and a range of optical mirrors, windows and prisms. For the military program, the company developed optical instruments and observation devices for arming infantry, then sighting devices for mortar sand howitzers and laser periscopes for armoured combat vehicles. Until two years ago, „Zrak“ was bankrupt, and today the company has its hands full of work and 180 employees and it is still in need of more workforces. It had six contracts worth EUR 1.5 million. Despite all this, „Zrak“ is still number one on a global scale in the production of certain optical elements and systems, some knowledge and technology are owned by only twenty countries, which is why the salvation of this company is of strategic importance for the FBiH (Salkić, 2017).
BNT-TMiH Travnik: „Bratstvo“ Novi Travnik had EUR 6.4 million of contracted work in 2016 (Salkić, 2017) and there will certainly be many more in the coming years, primarily because of the howitzer that is in the testing development phase. The prototype of the first BH howitzers, which are modern artillery weapons developed by BNT TMiH. In addition to trucks and computer equipment, the complete howitzer is a domestic product. The main features of these artillery weapons are 40 km range, six grenades automatic loading, computer GPS guidance, 155 mm NATO calibre and lightweight. The advantage of BH howitzers are about 20 per cent cheaper than the competition and will cost about EUR 0.5 million.
This company produces 60, 81, 82 and 120 mm mortars, 152 and 155 mm self-propelled rocket launchers, 128 and 262 mm self-propelled rocket launchers, 44 mm M57 and M80 hand launchers, 82 mm M60 and M84 tank-less cannon, 100 mm tank guns T-55 and 125 mm for M84, 100 mm anti-tank cannon, 76 mm mountain cannon, 105 and 122 mm howitzers, 130 mm cannon, 23 mm aircraft cannon and 100 mm coastal cannon. Among the most interesting products of this factory are certainly howitzers and multi-barrel rocket launchers. These include the „Nora“ howitzer and the multi-barrel rocket launchers „Hurricane“ and „Fire“. M84 „Nora“ is a 152 mm calibre top howitzer. It was developed in the early 1980s at the Military Technical Institute. It was introduced into the JNA in 1984 as one of the most efficient and modern howitzers of the time. Its production continued after the war in the BNT and as a 155 mm top-hood. It was designed based on the Russian top hood D-20. Although it was possible to use ammunition from Russian production, a new type of ammunition of 152 mm was developed. It rests on the ground via two arms and a hydraulic crane.
The M-87 „Hurricane“ is a self-propelled multi-barrel rocket launcher whose development began in 1980 as a joint project of Yugoslavia and Iraq. Prototype testing was completed by 1985, and two years later, the first launchers were shipped to the JNA. The system is intended for fire support of Corps and Army rank units. It is effective against live force, armoured vehicles, and can be used for anti-armour interference. The R-262 M87 missile „Hurricane“ was developed in two versions: with a cluster warhead and a cluster warhead with anti-tank mines.
The M-77 „Oganj“ is a multi-barrel self-propelled rocket launcher developed in the former Yugoslavia. It is mounted on a lorry and has 32 128 mm launch tubes and a machine gun on the armoured vehicle’s cab.
At the end of 2019, the BNT Novi Travnik Factory of Machines and Hydraulics launched an advertisement for the admission of 118 new workers (BIZNISINFO: B, 2019). In the Federation of BiH entity, only one pre-war military industry factory has failed – „Soko“ Mostar. The company that made aircraft was the pride of the military industry of the former Yugoslavia. Thousands of people worked at „Soko“, and today, after privatization, there is almost nothing justify of the company.
As for the military industry factories that belonged to the Republic of Serbia entity after the Dayton Peace Agreement, only three survived.
Tehničko-remontni zavod “Bratunac” has been sold to a South African company and has very few projects under the new owner. In 2018 the company introduced the first armoured vehicle of domestic production in BiH – „Despot“. It also produced a pistol called „Vampir“.
„Kosmos“ Banja Luka does almost nothing, in 2019 it was marked by strikes. Kosmos owes EUR 8 milion in taxes, and workers are looking for theirs wages (privrednastampa.ba, 2017).
“Orao” Bijeljina is the only company that works as such, but it is mostly focused on repairing and manufacturing aircraft turbojet engines.
The total revenue of the FBiH-owned military industry companies for 2018 was EUR 146,164,732, which is the same as in 2017. Export revenue amounted to EUR 107,427,404, an increase by 4 per cent compared to the same period last year, and total expenditures at EUR 127,779,040 and an increase of 1 per cent in comparison to 2017, according to the Military Business Report of the FBiH industry. Most of them were exported to Saudi Arabia, worth around EUR 38 million (I.Č., Klix.ba, 2019).
In 2018, these companies made a profit of EUR 18,385.692, which is 97 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2017. At the end of 2018, a total of 3,680 employees were employed (BIZNISINFO: C, 2019).
The military industry in the former Yugoslavia was the most significant revenue source of exports. Not much is justify of this glorious Yugoslav military industry today, but still enough to be a good base for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s development.
In the east. There are several factories in the Republic of Serbia that have seized their market opportunity. These are the companies “Zastava oružje” from Kragujevac, „Prvi partizan“ Užice, „Krušik“ Valjevo and „Sloboda“ Čačak, and “Milan Blagojević – Namenska” from Lučana and “Prvaiskra –Namenska” from Bariča.
At the Arms and Military Equipment Fair „Partner 2017“, Serbia premiered its „most powerful artillery weapon“, the howitzer „Alexander“ of domestic production. Characteristics say that it fires six missiles per minute, with 24 missiles ready for launch and a reduced crew.
In the West. In the Republic of Croatia, the military industry is recording success. The most wanted Croatian products of the military industry were the guns of Karlovac’s „HS Produkta” and their „VHS“ assault rifle, followed by snipers, hand grenade launchers, demining machines, military equipment, helmets, boots and patrol boats.
In terms of weapons possession, Croatia has the German 155 mm Pzh 2000 self-propelled howitzers, which are currently one of the most modern and best artillery systems in the world (BIZNISINFO, 2017). Unlike the Serbian Alexander, which can fire 6 missiles per minute, the Croatian Panzerhaubitze 2000 can fire 10-13 projectiles per minute, a plot of 3 shells in 9 seconds or 10 shells in 56 seconds (BIZNISINFO 2017).
According to available data (Tašković, 2018), Serbia’s military industry export is more than EUR 0.5 billion, Croatia has about EUR 150 million, and Bosnia and Herzegovina more than EUR 150 million.
Author: Rusmir Piralić