Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

THE GERMAN air force is ready to add its strength to an operation to cover the withdrawal of UN Protection Forces (UNPROFOR) from war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina if necessary, according to the Federal Ministry of Defence.

The defence ministry says that, while a final go-ahead for any deployment in the region is subject to parliamentary approval, the indications are that opposition parties would not unite against the plan, which has been a source of controversy in Germany.

"As far as we can see, even opposition parties will be at least divided [on this issue]," says the ministry. Defence minister Volker Ruhe and foreign minister Klaus Kinkel have already told NATO of the German Government's support for the plan.

Among the forces earmarked for possible deployment are:

six to eight electronic-combat and reconnaissance variants of the Panavia Tornado from the German air force's 32nd fighter-bomber wing, based at Lechfeld;

six reconnaissance Tornados from the 51st reconnaissance wing at Schleswig, carrying ex-German navy and Italian air force reconnaissance pods;

two Breguet Atlantic signals-intelligence aircraft;

up to 12 Transall C-160 transport aircraft.

According to the defence ministry, NATO has given clearance for the preparation of a communications framework in anticipation of possible deployment, while the plan for the UNPROFOR withdrawal itself is now almost complete.

NATO's Strong Resolve 95 exercise began in the North Atlantic and Norway on 20 February, with the dual aim of practising conflict prevention and crisis management and training in adverse terrain and weather conditions. Germany's air force contingent in the exercise, consists of six interdictor/strike Tornados from the 33rd fighter-bomber wing, six McDonnell Douglas Phantoms from the 74th fighter wing, and Raytheon Patriot, Hawk and Euromissile Roland surface-to-air missile units.

French and Spanish forces will also participate, alongside the NATO countries.

Source: Flight International