March 26, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A third night of airstrikes on Yugoslavia by American-led NATO forces targeted Serb military sites with air-launched cruise missiles and U.S. stealth fighter jets, Pentagon officials said Friday.
Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said the nighttime NATO attack began at about 9 p.m. local time (3 p.m. EST) with cruise-missile equipped B-52 bombers leading the assault.
Also in the mix were F-117 stealth fighter jets equipped with laser-guided munitions, he said. The fighter jets are able to evade radar that Serb anti-aircraft missile operators may use to target them.
The assault came hours after the first daylight raid that NATO launched against Yugoslavia. One cruise missile, launched in the afternoon from a warship in the Adriatic Sea, hit its target of a MiG 29 parked on a Yugoslav airfield, Pentagon sources said.
Bacon outlined the main objectives against the Serb forces.
"We are continuing to focus on air defenses," Bacon said during the late afternoon news conference. "We have made progress, particularly against its command and control elements."
A challenge, Bacon said, is that the Yugoslavs' radar was not being used all the time, but was being turned on and off periodically.
Bacon refused to speculate on whether that was a ploy by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to lure NATO planes into a false sense of security.
"He's a wily fellow, and that's why we'll continue to fly with great care and continue to devote a portion of our assets to dealing with his integrated air defense system," Bacon said.
Bacon said that while knocking out the formidable Yugoslav air defense system in order to ensure the safety of NATO pilots is the primary goal, he said there were other objectives that will help protect the Kosovars.
"We have designed a broad, seamless air campaign that should not be seen in terms of phases," Bacon said. "It should be seen as one air campaign that will move through a series of targets and goals."
Bacon did acknowledge that NATO is now "gradually increasing" its targets in Kosovo, especially against the Serb army and its facilities.
He said NATO bombs and missiles have struck an array of targets, including a Serb ammunition dump, a fuel supply depot, police headquarters and an army command post.
The objective with those targets was to hit the Serb army -- the so-called VJ -- and the Serb special police, the MUP. Both groups are accused of carrying out attacks on Kosovar Albanians.
"We believe hitting their (Serb) supplies -- their fuel and ammo supplies -- will have a demoralizing impact as well as a debilitating impact on their ability to operate," Bacon said. "But I can't give you a firm estimate of how long it will take for their sources to dry up."
Bacon said there were disturbing reports of brutality by the Serb forces, including executions and the destruction of villages. But because diplomats, journalists and observers have been ordered out of the country, Bacon said, there is no way to verify those reports.
Bacon said that kind of brutality began before the NATO airstrikes started. But he said there is reason to fear the worst and that was why NATO is trying as quickly as possible to stop the Serb forces in Kosovo.
"The KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) is responding, but it's basically trying to get out of the way, to retreat to the hills and preserve itself," Bacon said. "The bulk of the fighting is at the instigation of the Yugoslav forces."
Bacon also confirmed that NATO warplanes shot down two Yugoslav MiG-29 jet fighters in neighboring Bosnia. He said the aircraft were picked up on radar by allied airplanes and shot down at 5:35 p.m. (11:35 a.m. EST).
Bacon said he could only speculate on what the MiG pilots had intended to do in Bosnia; one possibility, he said, was that they were there to wage attacks on NATO peacekeeping troops.
"A second possibility is that they were involved in some sort of a Serb scheme to shoot down one of our planes," he said. "And obviously if this was the scheme, it backfired egregiously on the Yugoslavs."
Bacon said a third possibility was that the MiG pilots may have been trying to defect.
Pentagon officials said there were conflicting reports on whether the pilots were able to parachute to safety or if they were captured.
Bacon was asked if there were plans to punish the Serbs for their air excursion into Bosnia, and he said he was not going to announce any intentions.
"One thing they've learned is that crossing the border is just as dangerous as putting up their planes over Yugoslavia," he said.
U.S. military 'satisfied' with airstrikes
NATO Official Homepage
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