Pentagon: Yugoslav army morale falls along with fuel supply
Good weather allows NATO to step-up attacks
April 30, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Time is no longer on the side of Serb forces in Yugoslavia, where NATO airstrikes are taking a toll both on vital fuel supplies and the Yugoslav army's morale, U.S. military officials said Friday in a Pentagon briefing.
"Their fortunes are changing and things are going downhill for them," said Adm. Thomas Wilson, director of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
That opinion is shared by many Serb troops, Wilson said, citing a recent report that showed the Yugoslav army suffered more than 300 desertions in a single day.
"A (Yugoslav army) prisoner had reported, for example, that seven people had deserted from his platoon," Wilson said.
"We had indications a couple days ago that an armored brigade had two battalions that were affected by a significant number of desertions that perhaps made them, if not combat ineffective, perhaps delayed or not ready to immediately assume their mission," the admiral said.
The last 24 hours have been the most intensive of NATO's five-week-old bombing campaign, in part because the weather has been the best since the operation started, said Maj. Gen. Charles Wald, vice director for strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
NATO planes are repeatedly targeting oil refineries and depots in an attempt to choke off the fuel supply of Yugoslav forces. The Pentagon showed NATO attack video Friday of bombs hitting tanker railroad cars that Yugoslav forces tried to hide in the countryside.
"We certainly have indications, increasingly so, that units either can't carry out a mission which is assigned to them because of fuel shortages, or are reluctant to plan a mission which can't be carried out because of fuel shortages or have to call a mission short because of fuel shortages," Wilson said.
NATO strikes have taken out 50 percent of the highway bridges and nearly all of the railroad bridges leading into Kosovo, he said.
When asked if destroying those bridges wouldn't hamper the return of Kosovo refugees after the conflict, Wald said NATO is hitting only the larger highway bridges that the military uses for heavy equipment.
The Pentagon also reported the first use of a 5,000-pound GBU-28 bomb in Yugoslavia. The so-called "bunker buster," more than twice as heavy as previously used munitions in the campaign, was dropped last night on a tunnel near the Pristina Airfield.
Gun camera videotape of the attack showed an explosion that Wald said "should have destroyed the remainder of the aircraft, munitions and supplies that were in that tunnel."
The Pentagon denied reports that NATO was running short of precision bombs.
Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said many of the less sophisticated bombs are being upgraded with global positioning satellite guidance systems.
"They are very useful because they are all-weather. And therefore, they were extremely useful in the early days of the campaign when the weather was terrible," Bacon said. "As the weather gets progressively better into the summer months, it will be much easier to substitute laser-guided munitions for the JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions)."
Bacon said that 10 B-52H Stratofortresses will depart Friday night for England. Eight will fly out from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and two from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.
The planes are equipped with 500-pound gravity bombs that were used in the Gulf War and in Vietnam for carpet bombing. They may be used to attack targets such as sprawling military bases in the NATO campaign in Yugoslavia.
Pentagon officials were asked about an increased risk of collateral damage from "dumb bombs" dropped by the B-52s.
"This is not your father's B-52. This is not the Vietnam B-52," Wald responded. "This thing has been modified over the last 29 years to the point where now the bombs that are dropped from the B-52, because of the global positioning satellite capability, (they) are as accurate as the ones off the B-1 (bomber)."
Bacon called the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Friday meeting with three captured U.S. soldiers in Yugoslavia "helpful" for the POWs as well as for their relatives.
"These men should be freed," Bacon added. "They should not have been captured in the first place. And to the extent they're still there, that's regrettable."
Correspondents Jamie McIntrye and David Ensore contributed to this report.
Jesse Jackson to meet captured U.S. soldiers in Yugoslavia
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