Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen has ordered the deployment of six B-52 aircraft to the Royal Air Force base at Fairford, United Kingdom. The aircraft, based at Barksdale Air Force Base near Bossier City, La., are expected to depart for England within the next two days.
The deployment is another in the steps U.S. forces are taking to be prepared in the event a decision is made to respond militarily to the situation in Kosovo. 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 accept a political settlement. NATO has given Secretary General Javier Solana authority to authorize air strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
The B-52s are part of a total force of about 260 aircraft that the United States has committed to support air operations developed by NATO. Most of the U.S. combat aircraft committed to the NATO effort are stationed at bases in Europe or are aboard the aircraft carrier USS ENTERPRISE now deployed in the Mediterranean Sea.