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30 Aerial Refuelers Ordered to Allied Force

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 27, 1999 – Defense Secretary William S. Cohen has ordered 30 "KC-135 equivalents" for duty with Operation Allied Force, Pentagon officials announced April 26.

Allied Force planners will use the tanker aircraft to increase the tempo of the NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia, said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon. "[The tankers] allow us to keep planes on-station for longer periods of time and increase the number of hours of the day in which we're actually flying over or near Yugoslavia and Kosovo," he said.

The 30 tankers, air crews and support personnel will deploy by May 1 in response to a request earlier this month from U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark, Operation Allied Force commander. The personnel are a mix of active duty and reserve component specialists. Bacon said 137 U.S. tankers are serving in the operation now.

Bacon confirmed three members of the International Committee of the Red Cross have met with the three U.S. soldiers abducted by Serbs in Macedonia March 31. He termed the meeting brief and unsatisfactory.

"This visit did not comply with the rules or conventions under international law, the Geneva Convention, in that [the ICRC representatives] were not allowed to see these prisoners alone," Bacon said. "They were escorted by representatives of the Yugoslav government. ... They were not allowed to take a doctor with them. But they did talk briefly to the soldiers about their condition. They received a promise from the Yugoslav government that they'll be able to return for a longer private visit tomorrow, and we hope that's the case."

Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Wald, vice director for strategic plans and policy at the Joint Staff, said NATO aircraft hit 40 different targets in Kosovo and the rest of Yugoslavia. NATO pilots destroyed the last bridge across the Danube River over the weekend and continued to hammer the lines of communication in Yugoslavia, especially those into Kosovo.

Wald said 23 Apache helicopters are in Tirana, Albania and awaiting operational orders from the NATO air boss. All the Apaches' support equipment is also in place.

NATO pilots have destroyed nearly all of Yugoslavia's oil refining capability and continue to hit storage areas. However, oil is getting through to Yugoslavian forces through the port of Bar in the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro. NATO leaders called on the alliance's military committee to come up with a plan to cut those imports.

"What the NATO heads of state did over the weekend was to agree that there should be a maritime program to stop the flow of oil into Montenegro," Bacon said. "They instructed the defense ministers to work out the details of doing that."

He said the ministers looked at four options and chose a program combining two: aggressive interdiction of supply lines from Montenegro to Serbia and Kosovo, and a naval "visit and search" program wherein NATO would check vessels bound for Montenegro and deter them if they carry contraband, including oil.

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DoD News Briefing, April 26, 1999

Click photo for screen-resolution imageA KC-135 Stratotanker, assigned to the 22nd Air Refueling Squadron, Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, takes off for another mission from RAF Fairford, England. Elements of the 22nd ARS are deployed to RAF Fairford to provide air refueling support for NATO aircraft during Operation Allied Force. Staff Sgt. Randy Mallard, USAF  
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