300 U.S. Aircraft Heading Home
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 22, 1999 More than 300 U.S. aircraft will soon be on their way to home bases in the United States and Europe, Pentagon officials announced June 21, a day after NATO terminated Operation Allied Force.
Defense Secretary William S. Cohen authorized U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark, Allied Force commander, to begin redeploying the American planes. "Some of the planes and crews, including many reservists, could start returning as early as tomorrow," Cohen said at a Pentagon news briefing.
At its height, NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia involved about 37,500 U.S. service members ashore and afloat, said Pentagon officials. The successful air campaign is now being followed by a NATO-led ground peacekeeping force, Cohen said. "NATO is well on its way of meeting its goals of getting the Serb forces out, getting NATO peacekeepers in and getting the refugees back home.
"Yesterday, NATO announced the Yugoslav army and special police forces had departed Kosovo on the schedule negotiated by NATO," Cohen said. "We estimate about 47,000 Serb troops and nearly 800 tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery pieces have left Kosovo in the past 11 days.
"Hatred does not heal quickly, but taken together, the exodus of Serb troops and the demilitarization of the KLA offers the hope that the people of Kosovo can live in peace," Cohen concluded.
Cohen and Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, commended the crews who flew the bombers, fighters and support aircraft for carrying out the most precise air campaign in history.
"All Americans can be justifiably proud of the skill and professionalism of our air crews," Cohen said. They have helped make "air power history."
"From the pilots and air crews to the wrench turners and ordnance handlers, the fuelers on the ground and aboard the Navy ships in the Adriatic, to the soldiers and Marines in Albania and Macedonia and now in Kosovo -- both active and reserve -- this was truly a one team fight," Shelton said. "It was an outstanding total force operation."
American troops are "fired up," the chairman said, because they understand their hard work, dedication and unmatched skill helped make the Serbs withdraw, allowing the refugees to return to their villages. The troops are also anxious to get home, he said.
The redeployment will take place in two increments, Shelton said. The first, involving 124 aircraft, was expected to start as early as June 22, and was slated to take ten days to two weeks.
The following aircraft are scheduled to return from European bases to the United States: 12 F-117s from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, to Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.; two EC-130Es from Aviano Air Base, Italy, to Davis- Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.; four EA-6Bs from Aviano to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., and three to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.
Also coming home are: 12 F-16CJs from Bandirma Air Base, Turkey, to Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.; a P-3C from Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, to Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine; 11 B-52Hs from Royal Air Force Fairford, U.K., to Barksdale Air Force Base, La.; six B-1s from RAF Fairford, to Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.
Aircraft scheduled to redeploy from bases in the theater of operations to their European home stations include: 26 F- 15Es from Aviano, to RAF Lakenheath, U.K.; 20 F-16 CJs from Aviano, to Spangdahlem.
Some elements of Task Force Hawk are also slated to return to home stations in Germany, Pentagon officials said.
The redeployment of these aircraft will also allow the release of 27 KC-135 tanker equivalent air refueling assets, Pentagon officials said.
A second increment of over 243 aircraft based in the United States will begin redeploying after the first increment has completed its redeployment. The second increment is to include: 34 A-10s, 24 F-18Ds, 24 F-15Cs, 12 F-15Es, 24 F- 16CJs, 33 F-16 CGs, 12 F-117s, 10 EA-6Bs, three AC-130Us, two HC-130s, four MH-60Gs, four MH-53Js, four MH-53Ms, three MC-130s, five E-3Cs, six EC-130Cs, three EC-130Es, 31 C-130s, six HH-60Gs, one C-9 and a number of KC-135 equivalent aircraft still to be determined.
Related Site of Interest: DoD News Briefing, June 21, 1999