U.S. warships ready if NATO orders attack
February 23, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Four U.S. warships capable of firing cruise missiles are in the Adriatic Sea, ready to attack targets in Serbia if NATO gives the order, Pentagon sources told CNN on Monday.
"The ships are in their launch baskets (assigned positions), the targets have been scrubbed (selected and approved)," said a U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Sources tell CNN that if a NATO airstrike is ordered, the first wave of an attack would come from cruise missiles fired by the four U.S. Navy ships -- the guided missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea, the destroyer USS Gonzales, and the attack submarines USS Hampton and USS Miami.
Over the weekend, the United States moved a dozen F-117 stealth fighters from their base in New Mexico to Aviano, in Northern Italy, and seven B-52 bombers armed with air-launched cruise missiles from Barksdale, Louisiana, to Fairford, England.
Sources say one more B-52 will join those planes this week, to make total of eight.
Those planes join more than 200 U.S. attack planes already in Italy, but sources say the manned aircraft would be used only if there is a longer bombing campaign, beyond the first strike by cruise missiles.
Also over the weekend, the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Enterprise moved closer to Kosovo and is now in the Mediterranean Sea near Greece. But sources say that, for now, the carrier is not in the NATO strike plan.
Meantime, the United States continues to plan for peace as well. A three-vessel amphibious ready group headed by the assault ship USS Nassau has left port in Crete, carrying some 2,200 U.S. Marines toward the Greek port of Thessaloniki.
Sources say between 1,300 and 1,500 of those Marines would be part of the initial NATO peacekeeping force of 6,000 troops that will go into Yugoslavia's Kosovo province within three days of a peace agreement.
Both plans are on hold while peace negotiations between Serbs and ethnic Albanian Kosovo rebels remained stalled in Rambouillet outside Paris.
NATO won't attack Serbia if both sides are holding up an agreement, but if the Kosova Albanians give up their claim to independence, then the way would be cleared for punitive airstrikes to try to coerce Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to accept NATO ground troops on Serbian soil.
Milosevic has refused to accept the deal, which provides for the deployment of 28,000 NATO soldiers in the province during a three-year transition period.
Heavy fighting in northern Kosovo
Kosova Crisis Center
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.