CNN Balkan Conflict News

Pilots battle missiles and bad weather over Bosnia

[Closeup of a jet] August 31, 1995

From International Correspondent Brent Sadler

ABOARD THE USS ROOSEVELT IN THE ADRIATIC SEA (CNN) -- NATO's bombing of the Bosnian Serbs may have eased up on day two of the campaign, but the attacks didn't stop.

Combat missions from the U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt were being sustained at a moderate level compared with the first day of action.

An assortment of the carrier's warplanes were catapulting off the deck and landing as the warship maintained it's station and pivotal role in the Adriatic Sea.

[A missile with a message] The carrier was conducting missions directly against the Bosnian Serbs and supporting air strikes by other NATO forces.

"We have not had any damage fortunately to any of our aircraft. They all returned home safely, and that's great for us. But some of the pilots have reported pretty extensive ground fire," said Rear Admiral William Fallon, commander of the carrier group.

Returning pilots confirmed that Serb anti-aircraft artillery and man-carried shoulder-fired, surface-to-air-missiles were a problem.

"The Bosnian Serbs are going to do what they can to try to shoot us down," said one pilot whose name was withheld for security reasons.

[A pilot] The loss of a French plane Wednesday is shared by all. The feeling is one of "almost grief," a second pilot said. (113k .aiff sound file)

For all the sea and shore-based firepower at NATO's disposal, one basic element was working against the operation -- the weather.

Gray skies over Bosnia obstructed targets for many hours, and bomb damage assessment was hampered by poor visibility. But rack-loads of precision guided bombs, weighing one or two thousand pounds, were being rolled into place ready for use. These laser guided payloads are being dropped onto very small targets.

[A missle] "We're dropping munitions from a point in the sky that would be like trying to put a 2,000-pound bomb on the bed of a pick-up truck from fairly high up," said a U.S. official aboard the carrier.

With it's diversity of combat aircraft and its high level of expertise in search and rescue missions for downed pilots, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier remains at the forefront of NATO's operation "Deliberate Force," an operation which can continue to inflict damage on the Bosnian Serb army for as long as NATO and the United Nations deems it necessary.


Copyright © 1995 Cable News Network, Inc.