NATO Requests 300 More U.S. Aircraft for Allied Force
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 14, 1999 NATO's top military commander has asked the United States for 300 more aircraft for use in the Operation Allied Force air campaign against Yugoslavia.
U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark, supreme allied commander Europe, made the request April 13 and said he plans to ask other NATO allies for comparable increases in aircraft. This latest request is in addition to the 82 aircraft he asked for April 9, and would bring to about 800 the number of U.S. aircraft committed to the operation.
The increase may mean a presidential selected reserve call-up in the future, Pentagon officials said. "The details aren't ready to be announced at this stage, but there are two reasons for [the call-up]," said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon. "One, there may need to be a call-up that would include pilots to fly some of the tankers. Many of the tankers are flown by reservists.
"There are specialties such as civil affairs that only exist in the reserves, so to the extent that civil affairs people are sent over there, they have to come from the reserves," he continued.
President Clinton said April 13 that he will ask for a supplemental spending bill to cover the costs of operations in Kosovo through the end of fiscal 1999. Bacon said the bill would cover the both the military and the humanitarian relief missions and estimated the bill would be up to $4 billion.
Clark said Allied Force aircrews have flown more than 5,600 sorties in the first three weeks of Allied Force. He said allied pilots totally destroyed two refineries in Serbia and have hit 70 percent of its petroleum storage facilities. He said Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is taking fuel away from civilian consumption and hoarding it for military use.
"We know there have been disruptions in the supply chain where units in Kosovo have been told to cease operations, to hold back, conserve your fuel, get out of the way and wait," Clark said. "So we are having an impact on him with this."
Clark said the Yugoslavs' air defense system has been degraded but is still dangerous.
"I'll tell you right now that the reports that I heard when I flew in Bosnia and from what I've heard since is that the Yugoslavians had the best air defense system in the Warsaw Pact," Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Wald, vice director of strategic plans and policy on the Joint Staff, said at an April 13 Pentagon news conference. "They had a very robust, redundant system. That system is methodically being degraded and reduced as we speak. They have workarounds, but it's much more difficult for them. That's not to say it still isn't dangerous."
Clark said the Serb command and control is damaged and that NATO pilots are increasingly attacking Yugoslav army and police units. Still NATO has seen no evidence of a pull-back of Serb military or police forces. "They are moving into defensive positions in some areas, in other cases they are continuing with the pattern of ethnic cleansing and village destruction and in a third set of instances, they are regrouping, refitting, reconstituting and preparing for future operations," Clark said.
Wald theorized that, given the damage to Serb communications, Milosevic may not even suspect how badly he's being hit. "He's probably having a little bit of trouble trying to figure out exactly how his forces are holding up in the field," Wald said. "I doubt very seriously if he knows exactly how much we've reduced his capability."
Clark said the additional planes will allow him to strengthen and intensify the air campaign. "We are going to make it increasingly difficult for [Serb army and police] forces to survive on the ground in Kosovo," he said. "We are going to make it increasingly difficult for them to be resupplied and reinforced from outside Kosovo and we are going to make it increasingly painful and difficult for President Milosevic to maintain his control and the high-level command and control of the armed forces and police which are essential to maintaining his authority but that is the nature of air campaigns."
Bacon said Clark's request is being reviewed by the Joint Staff. "The request he sent in ... was a flexible request that basically gives the Joint Staff some ability to look at various tradeoffs of types of planes," Bacon said. "Basically the planes fall into three categories -- ground attack, air suppression, and tankers. As I said, he recommended a number of ways that the Joint Staff could fulfill this request, and that's what they'll be doing."