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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 065-99
February 17, 1999

U.S. AIRCRAFT ORDERED TO DEPLOY IN SUPPORT OF NATO OPERATIONS

Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen today ordered the deployment of additional U.S.-based aircraft to Europe in support of potential NATO operations. The aircraft are to be prepared to move within 48 hours.

These previously designated forces are deploying to their forward staging bases in Europe to increase their readiness status for potential air operations over the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. These aircraft are part of a total of about 260 aircraft that the United States committed to support air operations developed by NATO last fall. Most of the U.S. combat aircraft committed to the NATO effort are stationed at bases in Europe or aboard the aircraft carrier USS ENTERPRISE now deployed in the Mediterranean Sea. Aircraft of European allies are also committed to possible operations and are being readied at bases in Europe.

Deploying aircraft include 12 F117 Nighthawk stealth fighters, 10 EA-6B Prowlers, four KC-10 refuelers, and 25 KC-135 refuelers. Additional U.S. aircraft, including bombers, remain in a standby posture in the United States in case they are needed to support the operation.

NATO stated on Jan. 30, 1999, that it would take whatever measures are necessary, including air strikes, in the event of Belgrade's failure to comply with the demands of the international community to achieve a political settlement. NATO has given Secretary General Javier Solana authority to order air strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Peace talks are ongoing at Rambouillet, France. No decision has been made with respect to the use of force. This deployment is a precautionary measure to assure that NATO has the capability to conduct operations should that prove necessary.

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