NATO's Air War for Kosovo: A Strategic and Operational Assessment

By Benjamin S. Lambeth | Go to book overview

Chapter Three
THE AIR WAR UNFOLDS

The operational setting of Yugoslavia contrasted sharply with the one presented to coalition planners by Iraq in 1991. Defined by a series of interwoven valleys partly surrounded by mountains and protected by low cloud cover and fog, Serbia and Kosovo made up an arena smaller than the state of Kentucky (39,000 square miles), with Kosovo itself no larger than the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Its topogra/ phy and weather—compounded by an enemy IADS that was guaran/ teed to make offensive operations both difficult and dangerous— promised to provide a unique challenge for NATO air power.

Yugoslavia's air defenses were dominated by surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries equipped with thousands of Soviet-made SAMs, in/ cluding three SA-2 battalions; 16 SA-3 battalions, each with numer/ ous launchers directed by LOW BLOW fire-control radars; and five SA-6 regiments fielding five batteries each, for a total of 25 SA-6 bat/ teries directed by STRAIGHT FLUSH radars. These radar-guided SAMs were supplemented by around 100 vehicle-mounted SA-9 and several SA-13 infrared SAMs, along with a profusion of man-portable infrared SAMs, some 1,850 antiaircraft artillery (AAA) pieces, and nu/ merous stockpiled reserve weapons and buried communications lines. Backing up these defenses, the Yugoslav air force consisted of 238 combat aircraft, including 15 MiG-29 and 64 MiG-21 fighter/ interceptors.1 Although the Yugoslav IADS employed equipment and technologies that dated as far back as the 1960s, albeit presum/

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1
“AWOS [Air War Over Serbia] Fact Sheet,” Hq USAFE/SA, December 17, 1999. See also The Military Balance, 1998/99, London, International Institute for Strategic Stud/ ies, 1998, p. 100.

-17-

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NATO's Air War for Kosovo: A Strategic and Operational Assessment
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • Figures xi
  • Summary xiii
  • Acknowledgments xxv
  • Acronyms xxix
  • Chapter One - Introduction 1
  • Chapter Two - Prelude to Combat 5
  • Chapter Three - The Air War Unfolds 17
  • Chapter Four - Why Milosevic Gave Up When He Did 67
  • Chapter Five - Accomplishments of the Air War 87
  • Chapter Six - Friction and Operational Problems 101
  • Chapter Seven - Lapses in Strategy and Implementation 179
  • Chapter Eight - Nato's Air War in Perspective 219
  • Bibliography 251
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