NATO began to switch the emphasis of its air campaign in Yugoslavia to tactical targets on 31 March in an effort to target the Yugoslav army in Kosovo directly, but continued with strikes against strategic and air defence targets as bad weather hampered operations for much of the last week of March.

The move to phase two, attacking targets south of the 44th parallel, and on to phase three, attacking tactical targets all over Yugoslavia, included wider use of daytime strikes and the first deployment of Rockwell B-1B bombers - five aircraft deployed to RAF Fairford in the UK on 31 March. They may be used to drop precision-guided weapons against armoured targets.


The campaign also witnessed the first NATO loss on 27 March when a Lockheed F-117 was brought down by unknown weapons, near Belgrade. The pilot was rescued by a US Air Force combat search and rescue unit.

Royal Air Force British Aerospace Harriers were reinforced by four Panavia Tornado GR1s (with four more to follow). USAF forces were increased by the arrival of more Boeing B-52 bombers at RAF Fairford.

Phase three of the air campaign will involve increasing numbers of attacks on Yugoslav forces, possibly involving ground attack aircraft such as the Fairchild A-10 and attack helicopters.

The USAF has deployed six A-10s to Aviano, Italy, in expectation of the shift in targeting, and is to deploy five more Grumman EA-6B jamming aircraft. Canada is to send a further six Boeing CF-18 Hornets to back up the campaign.

NATO claims to have shot down "around half" of Yugoslavia's fleet of MiG-29 interceptors by 30 March.

Source: Flight International