NATO High-Tech Bombing Claims Debunked

Jay Moore research at
Mon May 8 19:29:36 MDT 2000

Nato hits were only a tenth of those claimed, says US air force

By Mary Dejevsky in Washington
The Independent (UK)

8 May 2000

The high-altitude bombing by Nato air forces during the Kosovo conflict was
far less successful than claimed at the time, with only a fraction of the
strikes hitting their targets. An internal United States air force report
obtained by Newsweek magazine logs only 58 accurate strikes, compared with
the 744 "confirmed" by Nato at the end of the war, raising new questions
about the high-precision low-casualty techniques that were so lavishly
praised after the Serb defeat.

The new figures were compiled by a special investigation team from the US
and other Nato air forces which spent weeks combing Kosovo on foot and by
helicopter looking for evidence of damage. They found that while the US top
brass boasted that Nato forces had disabled "around 120 tanks", "about 220
armoured personnel carriers(APCs)" and "up to 450 artillery and mortar
pieces" in 78 days of bombing, the true figures were probably less than one
tenth of that.

According to the investigators, Nato hit just 14 tanks, 18 APCs and 20
artillery and mortar pieces. These figures are much closer to the losses
admitted by Serb forces at the end of the war and dismissed by Nato then as

The investigation did find that high-altitude air power was effective in
Kosovo, but chiefly against civilian targets. It was the bombing of cities
and power stations that most damaged Serbia, it found, because it undermined
the ability of the leadership to govern. The relatively small losses of
military hardware played a far lesser role.

Another unwelcome discovery was how easily the high-altitude surveillance
systems could be tricked from the ground. The Serbs protected one strategic
bridge from attack by constructing another bridge 300m away out of
polyethylene sheeting. The fake bridge was "destroyed" many times over. The
Serbs also successfully built fake tanks out of black logs hoisted on to old
lorry wheels: from the air the false tanks looked indistinguishable from the
real ones - and took many more hits.

The report was commissioned by General Wesley Clark, Nato's Supreme Allied
Commander Europe, who oversaw the Kosovo operation and was concerned by the
discrepancy between pilots' claims and evidence from the ground. Completed
last summer, the report's existence was never made public, and it was
superseded by a second report, more to the liking of Nato and the Pentagon,
which quoted strike figures closer to those originally claimed.

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