Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Bosnia and Herzegovina

The independent state known traditionally as Bosnia and Herzegovina was once a part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. That country began to disintegrate in 1991 with Croatia and Slovenia declaring their independence. Civil war followed in Bosnia and Herzegovina and raged between 1992 and 1995. There were three princple beliigerents in the war: the HVO (Bosnian Croats), Army of BiH (primarily Bosniak Muslims - see below), and the Bosnian Serb Army (BSA). After the war the Croat and Muslim factions formed the Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina (with its own army), and the Bosnian Serbs retained their own army as the Republic of Srpska - yet both parties were still part of what was traditionally known as Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The two nations merged their armies into the Armed Forces of BiH (AFBiH) in 2005, which consist of the Ground Forces, and the Air Force & Air Defense Forces. Since 2003, the European Union Police Mission (EUPM) in Bosnia has been assisting in the creation of a reformed national police system for the nation. This is an ongoing effort, but several entities have already been created, including the Bosnian State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA), the Ministry of Security (MoS), and the State Border Service (SBS). Presently, there are at least 15 separate police entities operating within the Republic, some within the Republika Srpska and others in the Bosniak/Croat Federation.

ABiH

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The Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ABiH) was the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the only entity that defended its full borders. The ABiH was composed primarily of Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims,) but also included some Serbs (Bosnian Orthodox) and Croats (Bosnian Roman Catholic) within its ranks. The ABiH fought both the Croatian HVO and the Serbian BSA during the Bosnian civil war, although it was later merged with the HVO (1998), and finally merged with the BSA (2005) for form a single armed forces for the entire country.

  • The earliest camouflage uniforms of the ABiH were either privately obtained or were drawn from liberated stocks of old uniforms for the Yugoslavian National Army (JNA). Many of the old JNA camouflage uniforms, originally intended for use by snipers or reconnaissance personnel, were constructed into more practical field combat uniforms and load-bearing vests by local tailors. One of the most commonly encountered of these early patterns was the JNA three "tree branch" camouflage.

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  • The most commonly encountered pattern within the ABiH was a locally-made (or Croatian-made) copy of US m81 woodland. Considerable variability existed, depending on who printed the pattern and where it was produced. Thus there were a lot of different types of woodland camouflage that came out of the Bosnia and neighboring Croatia. Seen below on the far left is an example of a crudely printed, locally-manufactured early woodland pattern, as well as two (probably Croatian made) later woodland copies.

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  • Many strange patterns emerged among the ABiH, the origins of which many cannot be discerned. Seen below is a rare "green woodland" pattern uncommonly encountered during the Bosnian War. It was probably locally-made, but the strange colorway does suggest the possibility that it was imported.

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  • Stranger still is the pattern seen here, a locally-made copy of the Serbian M89 oakleaf pattern printed in a unique colorway and on completely different fabric than the original. Research indicates these were made in extremely limited numbers, and possibly worn only by a single unit of the ABiH.

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  • The pattern seen here dates to the 1993-97 era. It has been nicknamed "frogskin" pattern, and was primarily worn by ABiH soldiers operating in the Bihać Pocket area. A variation of this pattern using the same coloration, lacks the "dot" design on the background color. This appears to be a locally-produced design.

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  • Another variation of the above "frogskin" design has also been documented, also lacking the "dots" pattern, but additionally using a completely different color palette. The pattern also incorporates only two overprinted colors, rather than three, giving the overall appearance of a much "sparser" design.

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  • Another interesting camouflage design, also likely of local production, is seen here. Although documentation of this pattern's use by troops of the ABiH remains minimal, it appears very likely to have seen at least some limited distribution. More than one variation have been documented, suggesting limited production runs of the pattern.

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HOS

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The Croatian Defence Forces (Hrvatske Obrambene Snage or HOS) was originally a military arm of the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP) during the early stages of the Yugoslav Wars of Independence (1991-92). They were best known for wearing solid black combat uniforms, although many also wore the standard woodland. The HOS units in Bosnia and Herzegovina consisted of Croats, Bosniaks and foreign volunteers led by Blaž Kraljević, a general of the ABiH who was assassinated (along with eight members of his staff) by Croatian Defence Council soldiers in 1992. Shortly thereafter the HOS was disbanded, with units being absorbed either by the ABiH or HVO at the beginning of the Croat-Bosniak War.

HVO

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The Croatian Defence Council (Hrvatsko Vijeće Obrane or HVO) was formed in 1992 as the military arm of the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia. They fought both the Bosnian Army (ABiH) and the Bosnian Serbs, but signed a ceasefire with the Bosnians in February 1994. In March of the same year, the Washington Agreement established the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, uniting both Bosnians and Croats who had hitherto been enemies.

The HVO was largely supplied by the Croatian Army. They wore exUS m81 woodland camouflage BDUs or Croatian-made variants, including the ones seen here.

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Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina

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The Muslim and Croat parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina merged to form the Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina in 1994. A new Bosnian Federal Army (Vojska Federacije Bosne i Hercegovine) was formed by blending elements of the HVO with those of the ABiH in early 1996.

  • The Army of the Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina (AFBiH) wore primarily Woodland pattern camouflage uniforms, some ex-US surplus, some ex-Croatian, but ultimately most made in the newly formed country.

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Bosnia and Herzegovina (2005 to present)

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The present country of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosna i Hercegovina or Босна и Херцеговина) is politically decentralized and comprises two governing entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska. However, the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Oružane Snage Bosne i Hercegovine or Оружане снаге Босне и Херцеговине) became a unified military entity as of 2005 and wear the same uniforms and insignia. An additional branch of service with paramilitary duties is the Ministry of the Interior, known as Federalno Ministarstvo Unutrašnjih Poslova (FUMP) or Министарство унутрашњих послова Републике Српске (МУП РС) in Republic Srpska.

  • First appearing circa 2005-2006, the current issue camouflage pattern of the AFBiH is a close copy of USMC MARPAT design in lighter weight ripstop fabric. There is no EGA embedded into the design.

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  • Circa 2007, a contingent of Bosnian (AFBiH) military personnel deployed to Iraq wore US tricolor desert camouflage uniforms. The same uniforms are worn by AFBiH troops deployed to Afghanistan (Helmand, serving alongside with British and Danish troops.)

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  • Special Units of the Republika Srpska police wear this two-color camouflage design that appears to utilize woodland drawings.

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  • Some personnel of both the Federal Ministry of Interior (Federalno ministarstvo unutrašnjih poslova or FMUP) and the Ministry of Interior of Republika Srpska (Министарство унутрашњих послова Републике Српске) have deployed on peacekeeping and observation missions wearing Slovenian desert pattern camouflage uniforms with appropriate insignia.

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  • Some Special Police units within the federation utilize Multicam uniforms instead of the usual solid black operational suit. The pattern has also been worn by Police units deployed on UN missions to Africa.

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  • Within the Bosnian FUMP, the Federal Police Administration (Federalna Uprava Policije/en) is considered a special police unit. In the present period, this unit wears a grey-dominant camouflage design having fractal shapes.

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  • Within the Republic Srpska Ministry of Interior (Министарство унутрашњих послова) is the special police unit called Specijalna jedinica policije or SUP. This unit wears a woodland-like camouflage pattern with black-grey colorway, locally procured.

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Photographs

  • Two soldiers of the Federation Army, Sarejevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1998

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