According to a March 25, 2000, article published by the ITAR-TASS news agency, Russian GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate) sources report that during the Operation "Allied Force" NATO's air forces sustained losses considerably higher than is officially acknowledged by NATO command. According to GRU information, NATO lost three F-117A stealth bombers, and at least 40 other combat planes, and over 1000 cruise missiles.
So far NATO officials acknowledged losing three combat planes (the USAF F-117A on March 27, the USMC AV-8B Harrier on May 1, and the F-16CG-40-CF on May 2), two attack helicopters (AH-64 Apache on April 26 and another Apache on May 5), between 30 and 32 unmanned reconnaissance vehicles, including at least 16 American, 7 German, and 5 French UAVs. Interestingly enough NATO acknowledged all of the UAV losses mentioned by Yugoslav military officials - 30 - and, perhaps, even more.
Official NATO reports and statements made by various NATO officials indicate that about 10 NATO planes made emergency landings. Two F-117As sustained extensive damage (the F-117A 86-0837 was damaged on April 21 during landing; and another F-117A lost a part of its tail section due to a nearby SA-3 SAM explosion). An RAF C-130K Hercules transport plane crashed on June 11 in Albania. The aircraft was delivering a British SAS unit that was trying to beat Russian paratroopers to the Slatina base. The US Army OH-58 combat reconnaissance helicopter crashed on May 26 in Bosnia.
According to the information from unofficial Yugoslav military sources, NATO's final assessment of its aircraft losses during the operation "Allied Force" indicates that some 61 aircraft have been destroyed, 53 aircraft were damaged beyond repair or it is not cost-effective to repair them, 57 aircraft have sustained repairable combat damage. A total of 171 NATO aircraft were hit by Yugoslav defenses during the war.
According to Yugoslav army officials, NATO lost 61 planes, 7 helicopters, 30 UAVs, and 238 cruise missiles. These numbers include only those NATO aircraft that crashed inside Yugoslavia. Distribution of aircraft kills among various units and branches of the Yugoslav Armed Forces is as follows: 3rd Army: 34 planes, 5 helicopters, 25 UAVs and 52 cruise missiles (according to an official statement by General Nebojsa Pavkovic, commander of the 3rd Army, on June 12, 1999); Navy: 3 planes, 3 UAVs and over 5 cruise missiles (from an official statement by the FRY Navy Commander, Milan Zec, June 10, 1999); 2nd Army: 24 planes, 2 helicopters, 2 UAVs (reported by Major General Spasoje Smiljanic in his interview to Politika newspaper at the end of April), 30 cruise missiles; 1st Army: 6 planes, 129 cruise missiles (reported by General Ninoslav Krstic in his interview for the "Vojska" magazine on May 24, 1999.) If you add up these numbers, provided by various Yugoslav military officials, you will see that the number of planes reported to have been shot down is 67 and not 61 as the official report by Gen. Dragoljub Ojdanic states. And here's why:
On June 17, 1999, Gen. Spasoje Smiljanic, then commander of Yugoslav Air Force and Air Defense (RV i PVO), announced that "the Yugoslav Air Force and Air Defence units have downed 36 airplanes, 42 cruise missiles, nine UAVs and two helicopters." It is important to keep in mind, however, that RV i PVO air defense units do not include low-level army air defenses or naval air defenses, such as man-portable SAMs and some AAAs. The total number planes shot down by RV i PVO and by various air defense units outside of RV i PVO command comes to 61 planes, 7 helicopters, 30 UAVs and 238 cruise missiles according to Gen. Ojdanic. However, these figures only include those NATO aircraft that crashed inside Yugoslavia. In some of the earlier reports mentioned above Yugoslav military commanders included NATO aircraft that crashed outside Yugoslavia.
Several new pieces of destroyed NATO hardware were added to the Yugoslav Aeronautical Museum's exhibit on March 24 to commemorate one year since the beginning of NATO's aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Currently the museum's exhibit includes over 1500 fragments of NATO's military hardware. The museum's curator, Cedomir Janjic, announced that more destroyed NATO weapons will be soon added to the collection in a new wing of the museum dedicated to the war with NATO.
In an interview to the Associated Press Yugoslavia's Minister for Science and Development, Cedomir Mirkovic, said "It is truly amazing how many aircraft and drones were downed with the relatively modest and primitive equipment..." Mirkovic refutes Western claims that Yugoslav air defense downed only two planes. "We shall prove we have more," he said, without elaborating.
In February British press was discussing sharp shortage of operational aircraft experienced by the Royal Air Force. The news first appeared in the January 23, 2000, Hundreds of Crippled Jets put RAF in Crisis article from The Observer, by Antony Barnet. In particular, the article, based on the Observer's own investigation, outlines the following problems with the RAF:
"Two out of three of the UK's 186 fleet of Tornado bombers are grounded;
Fewer than 40 per cent of other frontline aircraft, such as Harriers and Jaguars, are ready to fly at short notice;
The Ministry of Defence has spent almost Ј1 billion developing a laser-guided bombing system that does not work properly;
There is shortage of nearly 20 per cent of junior officer fast jet pilots and the RAF is having a severe problem in retaining trained pilots;"
Two out of three British Tornadoes that are grounded comes to a rather substantial number: 124 Tornado strike aircraft are not operational. The crisis begun developing following the Operation "Desert Storm" in Iraq, but it really took off since the Operation "Allied Force" against Yugoslavia. As far as I know only four NATO Tornado aircraft were shot down during the conflict based on media reports. Two Luftwaffe strike aircraft were shot down on March 26-27. The other two Tornadoes were shot down on April 15 and May 26. It was not reported whether these aircraft were German or British.
The fact is that most of RAF's strike aircraft are out of order for a variety of reasons. I do not have enough information to draw any definitive conclusions. However, I know enough to say that 124 strategically - important strike aircraft are not grounded for no reason. NATO sustained significant losses. An even greater number of aircraft were damaged not only by ground fire but also by the intensity of operations and skipping on the required maintenance hours. After talking to several USAF aircraft mechanics, who participated in the "Allied Force", I can conclude that NATO aircraft were pushed to the limit and way beyond it. This is especially true for the USAF aircraft. One USAF aircraft mechanic who served at Aviano told me: "Two weeks - three weeks tops - and the "Allied Force" would have been over 'cause NATO would have ran out of working planes."
In the February 13 article in The Observer, based on first-hand information posted by RAF pilots and technicians at an Internet discussion group and entitled Pilots Vent Fury at RAF on Web, Antony Barnet writes: "Pilots currently serving in the Gulf, and others recently back from Kosovo, are so angry about defective equipment and low morale they are flooding the secret site with complaints aimed at senior officers." The "secret" site is the PPRuNe message board for military pilots. I've spent several days at that site fishing for information until that Sherlock from The Observer scared everyone away with his article.
From what was written by RAF pilots, it can be readily seen that there is a great deal of concern about technical capabilities of aircraft and even about their basic safety compromised by the lack of proper technical service and spare parts. An RAF Captain wrote: "The number of sorties lost due to unserviceability is way too high. I now find that I have to accept faults to get the job done that a few years ago I would not have done ... Although I have a few worries about the structural strength of the airframe I am convinced that we are going to have a major problem due to some esoteric fault... We struggle to get spares, some parts have to be manufactured over and over. We use the cheapest contractor we can find..."
And, in place of a conclusion, a brief review of the latest developments around Kosovo. Following some harsh criticism directed by the U.S. military against France regarding its role in the Operation "Allied Force" and in response to the accusations by certain US government officials that French peacekeepers in Kosovo are not doing their job, France released classified information regarding civilian casualties in Kosovo since the NATO-led UN force assumed responsibility for the province following the war with Yugoslavia. Available statistics clearly illustrated that the French sector of Kosovo has a better safety record than the sector supervised by the Americans.
However, information revealed by France also showed that civilian casualties in Kosovo are much higher than they were when Kosovo was under Yugoslav control. In essence, the number of violent deaths in the province is higher and continues to grow under NATO's "humanitarian intervention" that it was during the "ethnic cleansing." The report released by France clearly illustrates that the number of violent crimes in Kosovo is rapidly growing. This revelation was the first step in a series of events that led to recent statements by various UN and NATO officials confirming that the KFOR has effectively lost control over the situation in Kosovo. NATO field commanders acknowledged that their troops are not capable of dealing with the growing crime wave in the province. The UN formally announced that the situation in Kosovo worsened since NATO troops assumed control of the province. The US approached Russian government with an offer to widen the authority of the Contact Group.
Russia's response was not very optimistic to say the least. Russian law enforcement officials announced that Russian policemen will not be deployed in Kosovo because of appalling lack of cooperation on NATO's side. Furthermore, top Russian military commanders announced that Russia may pull out of the KFOR altogether. On the other hand, commander of Russian Airborne Assault Forces (VDV) Gen. G. Shpak announced about plans to convert the Slatina base of the Yugoslav Air Force near Pristina, which currently serves as the main base for Russian KFOR paratroopers, into a large Russian military base with a capability to barrack up to 15000 Russian troops.
There are reports that Russians are already doing some large-scale construction work at Slatina. Russian Su-27 and Su-30 fighter aircraft have been sighted at several Yugoslav Air Force bases (Batajnica, Ponikve). There is a lot of unofficial information regarding deliveries of Russian SAM systems to Yugoslavia. High-level meetings are underway between Yugoslav and Russian governments regarding Yugoslavia's plans to join the Russia-Belarus union. The Russian military is extremely interested in establishing its presence in Kosovo and in the rest of Serbia on a greater scale. A logical first step would be a joint defense agreement between Russia and Yugoslavia. Such an agreement will include Belarus and, possibly, other CIS members. In an interview to the "Voice of Russia" radio station, Gen. Ivashov said that Russia is considering a military intervention in Kosovo and may offer support to the Yugoslav Army on the ground.
Many question Yugoslavia's ability to purchase large quantities of hi-tech weapons from Russia. Yugoslavia's economy is not in great shape, but Russia owes FRY a hefty sum, which Russians would be only too glad to offset by supplying Serbia weapons. Russia is also seeking more influence in Europe now that the Chechen conflict is no longer a major military commitment. Russian generals and the military-industrial complex look to expand internal arms market as well as arms exports. Yugoslavia always has an option to lease or even borrow weapons from Russia. And the latter, with its recently-downsized army, has plenty of decent-quality weapons to spare, including SAMs and aircraft. SAMs and planes are not underwear: you don't need to own 'em to use 'em. This may not be the latest equipment but it works and there's a lot of it.
According to an ITAR-TASS review of the article published by the Foreign Military Review magazine of the Russian Defense Ministry, Yugoslav aviation prevented the use of American AH-64 Apache attack helicopters during the Kosovo conflict. The "NATO Losses in the War with Yugoslavia" article, the Foreign Military Review writes: "... the biggest sensation was the number of troops lost by NATO. Not just NATO pilots were killed in Yugoslavia, but also search-and-rescue troops that were tasked with locating downed pilots. Yugoslav air defenses have shot down no less than five NATO helicopters, which resulted in deaths of about 100 troops of the Alliance."
According to the Foreign Military Review, the reason why Pentagon did not use Apaches in Kosovo "...had nothing to do with technical problems with the helicopters or insufficient training of their flight crews, as was often stated by NATO officials. The only reason was the April 26 attack carried out by Yugoslav "Galeb" fighters against "Rinas" airport located near Albania's capital of Tirana, where the Apaches were based. That day two groups of these light helicopters were destroyed and over 10 helicopters were damaged."
A similar operation was carried out by Yugoslav AF on April 18 against the airport in Tuzla, Bosnia, used as an emergency landing site for NATO aircraft. As the result of this attack some fifteen NATO aircraft have been destroyed on the ground. The Foreign Military Review writes: "Despite the fact that American aircraft dominated NATO operations, they weren't the only aircraft shot down by Yugoslav air defenses. Among the destroyed aircraft were five German "Tornadoes," several British "Harriers'" two French "Mirages," Belgian, Dutch, and Canadian aircraft. On June 7 the USAF lost a B-52 strategic bomber, while on May 20 a B-2A "Spirit" was shot down."
March 28, 2000
April 9, 2000
Venik's Aviation Page
Should we be ready for a WW3 ?