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Allied Force Aircraft Continue Bombing Campaign

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 26, 1999 – Most NATO air attacks on Yugoslavia hit the country's air defense network, but some 20 percent struck army and special police units in Kosovo, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said March 25.

The air and sea barrage against Yugoslavia was in its second day and, Bacon told reporters, it would continue as long as needed.

He summarized first-day NATO strikes: U.S. B-52 bombers began the operation with air-launched cruise missiles, and U.S. and British ships and submarines in the Adriatic Sea followed with dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles. NATO pilots flew 156 sorties against "about three dozen" targets. The U.S. B-2 Spirit stealth bomber flew in combat for the first time.

NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said March 26 that the second night's attacks continued to "meet essential mission objectives." He said 64 aircraft flew 400 sorties against 50 targets. All allied aircraft returned safely both nights; NATO officials released photos and gun camera footage showing first-night attacks.

News reports Mar. 25 stated the Serbs had stepped up their campaign against the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Bacon was unable to confirm the Serbs' activities, but called them in character. "If our military strikes continue, they will focus more and more on achieving out primary goal, which is to reduce the ability of the Yugoslav forces to target or repress the Kosovar Albanians," he said.

Shea rejected the notion that the NATO strikes instigated the Serb actions against the Kosovars. "These [Serb] atrocities have been going on for more than a year," he said. He said once the Yugoslavian air defense system is neutralized, NATO pilots will concentrate on hitting army heavy artillery, tanks and armored personnel carriers.

Pilots reported no surface-to-air missiles on the first night. NATO spokesman Royal Air Force Air Commodore David Wilby said the Yugoslavians fired one SA-6 SAM during the second night, but it was fired "ineffectively."

Bacon said the reason may be a degraded Serb air defense system or the Serbs are hoarding missiles. "We just don't know at this stage," he said. "But it is clear that when we fly in such a hostile environment we take steps involving the attack or suppression of air defenses, as well as various evasive actions to avoid or make it difficult for our planes to be attacked."

NATO aircraft shot down three Serb MiG-29 Fulcrum aircraft the first night -- two by U.S. pilots, one by a Dutch pilot. Pilots met no aircraft the second night. Bacon said some Serb aircraft were destroyed on the ground.

Bacon and Shea said the bombing campaign will end once Yugoslavia complies with NATO demands. The person who can define how long campaign lasts is Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Bacon said.

"He can at any minute decide that peace is the best way to resolve this issue. He can go back to the table and sit down and say that he's going to agree to a cease fire, say he's going to pull his forces out and end this," Bacon said. "That is the quickest way to end [the aerial campaign], and it could happen any time he decides to do it."

Shea said after a March 26 North Atlantic Council meeting that the 19 NATO nations were demonstrating "unity, resolve and determination." "We want to stop, once-and-for-all, the brutal acts of repression in Kosovo," he said.

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