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Air Ops in Yugoslavia Pick Up; Apaches to Albania

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 6, 1999 – A night of clear skies gave Operation Allied Force airmen the chance to hit many targets throughout Yugoslavia, NATO and U.S. spokesmen said April 5.

Officials said all NATO planes returned safely despite a "number" of Serb surface-to-air missiles fired at the NATO pilots.

President Clinton called on the NATO nations to stick together and maintain the attacks against the regime of Serb President Slobodan Milosevic. Yugoslav forces continue advancing in Kosovo from the north and west and, U.N. officials have estimated, are driving up to 350,000 ethnic Albanians refugees ahead of them.

In addition, Clinton announced the United States offered and NATO accepted 24 Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to aid in Operation Allied Force.

The Apaches, from two battalions of the 11th Aviation Brigade in Illesheim, Germany, should arrive in eight to 14 days, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said. The Apaches will be accompanied by support helicopters; a Multiple Launch Rocket System artillery battalion; a support battalion; a mechanized infantry company with 14 Bradley fighting vehicles; a military police company; a signal company; and required military intelligence, aviation maintenance and other support elements.

This means about 2,000 U.S. soldiers will deploy to Albania, where the force will be based, Bacon said. He said the deployment stems from a request by U.S. Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark, NATO's top military officer and commander of Allied Force. He said Clark asked for a wider variety of weapons to attack armored ground targets and artillery in Kosovo.

"It's a logical expansion of the current air operation," Bacon said. "It gives us greater precision, all-weather capability, day or night, to go after the types of weapons that the Yugoslav army is using." He said NATO aerial photos show Yugoslavian forces "herding" villagers. The photos alone don't confirm Serb atrocities, but refugee accounts detail atrocities have occurred, he said.

Bacon said U.S. aircraft will start transporting 20,000 Kosovar refugees "probably" to the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Also, authorities of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have asked for another 600,000 more humanitarian food ration packs; 500,000 are already en route.

NATO and U.S. officials said the weather April 4 was the best since the beginning of the bombing campaign. NATO aircraft hit more than two dozen targets.

"Clearly last night was a substantially larger level of effort," said Navy Capt. Steve Pietropauli, spokesman for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "The initial reports we've gotten from NATO with respect to the tactical aircraft, including the strikes in and around Kosovo and the rest of Yugoslavia this morning, was they had some very good results. Last night U.S. participation in the strike included the full range of systems - - B-1s, B-2s, F-117s, the tactical aviation, the F-15s, F-16s, all the tankers and support aircraft that were flying."

Despite the NATO strikes, the lightly armed, outnumbered and outgunned ethnic Albanian resistance in Kosovo is weakening but continues to resist, particularly in the west, Bacon said. "They don't really have the armaments they need to deal with a sustained armor attack, and that's what they're getting right now," he said.

Bacon said Milosevic may try to sue for peace should he succeed in driving all ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, but NATO won't be stopping just because he does. "Milosevic may think he's finished. We will not be finished," he said.

The only acceptable end-state said Bacon is for the killing to stop, the withdrawal of the Serb army and special security forces, the establishment of autonomous democratic self-rule, and the acceptance of a NATO-led international peacekeeping force. If those conditions are met, said Bacon, "then refugees will be able to return and rebuild their lives in Kosovo, and that's the goal."

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