Skip to comments.NATO attack on Yugoslavia gave Iraq good lessons (MUST READ!)
Posted on 11/20/2002 9:33:16 AM PST by Destro
The Globe and Mail
POSTED AT 10:41 AM EST Wednesday, November 20
NATO attack on Yugoslavia gave Iraq good lessons
Belgrade As the U.S. administration considers going to war with Iraq, concerns are emerging that Baghdad has been studying the low-tech countermeasures that Yugoslavia used to foil U.S. airstrikes against its military in 1999.
"That's a matter of serious and legitimate concern," said retired General Wesley Clark, who, as NATO commander, led the 78-day bombing campaign aimed at expelling Yugoslav forces from the mainly ethnic Albanian region of Kosovo, where they were engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing.
NATO prevailed by destroying infrastructure and government buildings in Yugoslavia but it did little real damage to the Yugoslav military in Kosovo.
Before he was ousted in October, 2000, president Slobodan Milosevic co-operated closely with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime. Yugoslav advisers helped revamp Baghdad's air-defence system, and officers of Iraq's Air Defence Command toured Yugoslav bases to study the Kosovo war.
"The war (in Kosovo) proved that a competent opponent can improvise ways to overcome superior weaponry, because every technology has weaknesses that can be identified and exploited," said Cedomir Janjic, an air force historian.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade confirmed that a group of U.S. military experts was in Yugoslavia to determine what benefits Mr. Hussein's military had derived from its co-operation with the Milosevic regime.
Gen. Clark identified several ways in which Yugoslav experience could prove valuable to the Iraqis.
The most significant, he said, was the ability of Yugoslavia's air defences to foil NATO electronics by using different radar frequencies and profiles, and by using "passive tracking" systems that do not give off radiation.
Despite NATO's air supremacy, it never succeeded in knocking out the air defences. They remained a potent threat throughout the conflict, forcing attacking warplanes to altitudes above 15,000 feet, where they were safe from surface-to-air missiles but far less effective in a ground-attack role.
"We were always aware we were being tracked and monitored by them," Gen. Clark said.
NATO won the war in June, 1999, following Mr. Milosevic's decision to withdraw his largely intact army from Kosovo, and after the extensive destruction of bridges, government buildings and other infrastructure targets throughout Yugoslavia.
In contrast, the effects of heavy bombing on the Yugoslav forces in Kosovo were minimal. British ordnance experts who inspected the battlefields after the war determined that only 14 tanks and a handful of armoured vehicles were destroyed in nearly three months of bombing.
The Yugoslavs had dispersed their heavily camouflaged units, thus conserving their assets for the expected alliance ground assault, and used decoys and other mock targets to deceive the attackers.
Iraq was quick to pursue insight from that conflict.
Teams of Iraqi intelligence officers rushed to Yugoslavia in the aftermath of the war to visit command centres and air-defence sites. Many toured Belgrade's Aviation Museum, inspecting destroyed drones, cruise missiles and the remnants of U.S. F-16 Falcon and F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighters.
"Although they wore civilian suits, it was obvious they were Iraqi military," curator Drasko Kostic said.
Meanwhile, Yugoslav technicians were reportedly upgrading Iraq's fibre-optics communications network, allowing commanders real-time control of all units. They modified launchers of SA-6 surface-to-air missiles with optical tracking equipment to allow them to hit targets without using ground guidance radars, and added fuel cells to SA-3 missiles to extend their range to reach high-flying U-2 spy planes.
Over Iraq, U.S. and British pilots enforcing no-fly zones soon noticed a new aggressiveness in the air defences, which began challenging them on a daily basis. Although numerous command bunkers and missile batteries were hit in retaliatory strikes, the Iraqis also managed some successes by downing reconnaissance drones and damaging a U-2.
Gen. Clark said that Yugoslav advisers had enabled the Iraqis to reduce the "effects of weaponry" and passed on "what works and what doesn't in the art of camouflage."
He noted that the Yugoslavs had demonstrated great skill at hiding their armour, guns and infantry in towns and villages.
"That will certainly be of great interest to the Iraqis," he said. "We shouldn't be surprised to find Iraqi forces in mosques, schools and homes."
The White House is said to have settled on a war plan calling for massive air strikes on air defences and key military facilities. But this could quickly unravel if Mr. Hussein's commanders like Mr. Milosevic's shield their forces from the strikes and engage the invaders in a long and bloody ground war in cities.
Analysts say the parallels with Kosovo are far more relevant to a possible conflict than the much-touted victory against the Taliban, arguably the most primitive army in the world.
"We realize that a conflict with Iraq will not be like ... Afghanistan," said retired Rear Admiral Stephen Baker of the Center for Defense Information in Washington. "Our tactics should be driven by what we learned in Kosovo."
Yugoslav tactics that worked
An overview of tactics employed by the Yugoslav army to limit the effectiveness of the NATO air strikes:
*Yugoslav air defences tracked U.S. stealth aircraft by using old Russian radars operating on long wavelengths. This, combined with the loss of stealth characteristics when the jets got wet or opened their bomb bays, made them shine on radar screens.
*Radars confused precision-guided HARM and ALARM missiles by reflecting their electromagnetic beams off heavy farm machinery, such as plows or old tractors placed around the sites. This cluttered the U.S. missiles' guidance systems, which were unable to pinpoint the emitters.
*Scout helicopters would land on flatbed trucks and rev their engines before being towed to camouflaged sites several hundred metres away. Heat-seeking missiles from NATO jets would then locate and go after the residual heat on the trucks.
*Yugoslav troops used cheap heat-emitting decoys such as small gas furnaces to simulate nonexistent positions on Kosovo mountainsides. B-52 bombers, employing advanced infrared sensors, repeatedly blasted the empty hills. The army drew up plans for covert placement of heat and microwave emitters on territory that NATO troops were expected to occupy in a ground war. This was intended to trick the B-52s into carpet-bombing their own forces. Dozens of dummy objectives, including fake bridges and airfields were constructed. Many of the decoy planes were so good that NATO claimed that the Yugoslav air force had been decimated. After the war, it turned out most of its planes had survived unscathed. Fake tanks were built using plastic sheeting, old tires, and logs. To mimic heat emissions, cans were filled with sand and fuel and set alight. Hundreds of these makeshift decoys were bombed, leading to wildly inflated destruction claims.
*Bridges and other strategic targets were defended from missiles with laser-guidance systems by bonfires made of old tires and wet hay, which emit dense smoke filled with laser-reflecting particles.
*U.S. bombs equipped with GPS guidance proved vulnerable to old electronic jammers that blocked their links with satellites.
*Despite NATO's total air supremacy, Yugoslav jets flew combat missions over Kosovo at extremely low altitudes, using terrain to remain undetected by AWACS flying radars.
*Weapons that performed well in Afghanistan Predator drones, Apache attack choppers and C-130 Hercules gunships proved ineffective in Kosovo. Drones were easy targets for 1940s-era Hispano-Suisa anti-aircraft cannons, and C-130s and Apaches were considered too vulnerable to be deployed.
Now that Clark admits to winning by targeting civilians will Bush order Aschcroft arrest him?
The Perfumed Prince stunk like a steamin' cow pie.
Anyways i am certain that Iraq is going to be different fromt he Yuogoslav scenario! First of all Iraq is one big flat plane of desert! there are no rolling hills and wooded areas to speak off, and the obfuscation strategies used in Yugoslavia would not work in a desoltae sand hell like Iraq! Secondly i doubt we will allow our ordnance to be fooled by microwave ovens, old tractors, and logs lying on the ground again! And i am sure that if there is a future Iraq campaign it will be led by a US of A general not some NATO euro-trash commander who led caused US deaths (I am sure if it wree a 100% US thing, with no NATO intermediaries, that we woudl not have lost the Stealth Fighter or the other planes downed ...however NATO likes set patterns henc ei was easy for the slavs to know the flight patterns of the F-117s and it was just a matter of time before something bad happened).
Also consider that in the first GulfWar the Iraqis were totally helpless against Allied assault ....they had no way of even viably fighting back!
Anyways Yugoslavia is totally different from Iraq, and will always be! Even though technically Iraq is a stronger 'military power' in paper the Slavs are by far the stronger adversary! They are more intelligent than the Iraqis by far (after all they managed to fool NATO, which woudl not be a big deal had they also not managed to fool US and British specialists too in the process). However Iraqis are just dumb fellas with huge bullseyes over their heads. Simply target practice.
As for the Yugoslav thing i still wonder why Klington sent the US army there! Especially when you consider that we were helping Albanian Muslim terrorist-rebels against the Serbian Christian Yugoslavs!
Also the following excerpt from the article disturbs me: Teams of Iraqi intelligence officers rushed to Yugoslavia in the aftermath of the war to visit command centres and air-defence sites. Many toured Belgrade's Aviation Museum, inspecting destroyed drones, cruise missiles and the remnants of U.S. F-16 Falcon and F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighters.
Why do we still allow them to have pieces of the F-117A? I thought we would have sent teams to retrieve the wreckage of the F-117! They can keep the pieces of the F-16s and other stuff ...but i thought the F-117 components were still valued possessions! Or am i wrong?
It was acclaimed as the most successful air campaign ever. "A turning point in the history of warfare," wrote the noted military historian John Keegan, proof positive that "a war can be won by airpower alone." At a press conference last June, after Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic agreed to pull his Army from Kosovo at the end of a 78-day aerial bombardment that had not cost the life of a single NATO soldier or airman, Defense Secretary William Cohen declared, "We severely crippled the [Serb] military forces in Kosovo by destroying more than 50 percent of the artillery and one third of the armored vehicles." Displaying colorful charts, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Henry Shelton claimed that NATO's air forces had killed "around 120 tanks," "about 220 armored personnel carriers" and "up to 450 artillery and mortar pieces."
An antiseptic war, fought by pilots flying safely three miles high. It seems almost too good to be trueand it was. In factas some critics suspected at the timethe air campaign against the Serb military in Kosovo was largely ineffective. NATO bombs plowed up some fields, blew up hundreds of cars, trucks and decoys, and barely dented Serb artillery and armor. According to a suppressed Air Force report obtained by NEWSWEEK, the number of targets verifiably destroyed was a tiny fraction of those claimed: 14 tanks, not 120; 18 armored personnel carriers, not 220; 20 artillery pieces, not 450. Out of the 744 "confirmed" strikes by NATO pilots during the war, the Air Force investigators, who spent weeks combing Kosovo by helicopter and by foot, found evidence of just 58.
The damage report has been buried by top military officers and Pentagon officials, who in interviews with NEWSWEEK over the last three weeks were still glossing over or denying its significance. Why the evasions and dissembling, with the disturbing echoes of the inflated "body counts" of the Vietnam War? All during the Balkan war, Gen. Wesley Clark, the top NATO commander, was under pressure from Washington to produce positive bombing results from politicians who were desperate not to commit ground troops to combat. The Air Force protested that tanks are hard to hit from 15,000 feet, but Clark insisted. Now that the war is long over, neither the generals nor their civilian masters are eager to delve into what really happened. Asked how many Serb tanks and other vehicles were destroyed in Kosovo, General Clark will only answer, "Enough."
In one sense, history is simply repeating itself. Pilots have been exaggerating their "kills" at least since the Battle of Britain in 1940. But this latest distortion could badly mislead future policymakers. Air power was effective in the Kosovo war not against military targets but against civilian ones. Military planners do not like to talk frankly about terror-bombing civilians ("strategic targeting" is the preferred euphemism), but what got Milosevic's attention was turning out the lights in downtown Belgrade. Making the Serb populace suffer by striking power stationsnot "plinking" tanks in the Kosovo countrysidethreatened his hold on power. The Serb dictator was not so much defeated as pushed back into his lairfor a time. The surgical strike remains a mirage. Even with the best technology, pilots can destroy mobile targets on the ground only by flying low and slow, exposed to ground fire. But NATO didn't want to see pilots killed or captured.
Instead, the Pentagon essentially declared victory and hushed up any doubts about what the air war exactly had achieved. The story of the cover-up is revealing of the way military bureaucracies can twist the truthnot so much by outright lying, but by "reanalyzing" the problem and winking at inconvenient facts. Caught in the middle was General Clark, who last week relinquished his post in a controversial early retirement. Mistrusted by his masters in Washington, Clark will retire from the Army next month with none of the fanfare that greeted other conquering heroes like Dwight Eisenhower after World War II or Norman Schwarzkopf after Desert Storm. To his credit, Clark was dubious about Air Force claims and triedat least at firstto gain an accurate picture of the bombing in Kosovo. At the end of the war the Serbs' ground commander, Gen. Nobojsa Pavkovic, claimed to have lost only 13 tanks. "Serb disinformation," scoffed Clark. But quietly, Clark's own staff told him the Serb general might be right. "We need to get to the bottom of this," Clark said. So at the end of June, Clark dispatched a team into Kosovo to do an on-the-ground survey. The 30 experts, some from NATO but most from the U.S. Air Force, were known as the Munitions Effectiveness Assessment Team, or MEAT. Later, a few of the officers would refer to themselves as "dead meat."
The bombing, they discovered, was highly accurate against fixed targets, like bunkers and bridges. "But we were spoofed a lot," said one team member. The Serbs protected one bridge from the high-flying NATO bombers by constructing, 300 yards upstream, a fake bridge made of polyethylene sheeting stretched over the river. NATO "destroyed" the phony bridge many times. Artillery pieces were faked out of long black logs stuck on old truck wheels. A two-thirds scale SA-9 antiaircraft missile launcher was fabricated from the metal-lined paper used to make European milk cartons. "It would have looked perfect from three miles up," said a MEAT analyst.
The team found dozens of burnt-out cars, buses and trucksbut very few tanks. When General Clark heard this unwelcome news, he ordered the team out of their helicopters: "Goddammit, drive to each one of those places. Walk the terrain." The team grubbed about in bomb craters, where more than once they were showered with garbage the local villagers were throwing into these impromptu rubbish pits. At the beginning of August, MEAT returned to Air Force headquarters at Ramstein air base in Germany with 2,600 photographs. They briefed Gen. Walter Begert, the Air Force deputy commander in Europe. "What do you mean we didn't hit tanks?" Begert demanded. Clark had the same reaction. "This can't be," he said. "I don't believe it." Clark insisted that the Serbs had hidden their damaged equipment and that the team hadn't looked hard enough. Not so, he was told. A 50-ton tank can't be dragged away without leaving raw gouges in the earth, which the team had not seen.
The Air Force was ordered to prepare a new report. In a month, Brig. Gen. John Corley was able to turn around a survey that pleased Clark. It showed that NATO had successfully struck 93 tanks, close to the 120 claimed by General Shelton at the end of the war, and 153 armored personnel carriers, not far off the 220 touted by Shelton. Corley's team did not do any new field research. Rather, they looked for any support for the pilots' claims. "The methodology is rock solid," said Corley, who strongly denied any attempt to obfuscate. "Smoke and mirrors" is more like it, according to a senior officer at NATO headquarters who examined the data. For more than half of the hits declared by Corley to be "validated kills," there was only one piece of evidenceusually, a blurred cockpit video or a flash detected by a spy satellite. But satellites usually can't discern whether a bomb hits anything when it explodes.
The Corley report was greeted with quiet disbelief outside the Air Force. NATO sources say that Clark's deputy, British Gen. Sir Rupert Smith, and his chief of staff, German Gen. Dieter Stockmann, both privately cautioned Clark not to accept Corley's numbers. The U.S. intelligence community was also doubtful. The CIA puts far more credence in a November get-together of U.S. and British intelligence experts, which determined that the Yugoslav Army after the war was only marginally smaller than it had been before. "Nobody is very keen to talk about this topic," a CIA official told NEWSWEEK.
Lately, the Defense Department has tried to fudge. In January Defense Secretary Cohen and General Shelton put their names to a formal After-Action Report to Congress on the Kosovo war. The 194-page report was so devoid of hard data that Pentagon officials jokingly called it "fiber-free." The report did include Corley's chart showing that NATO killed 93 tanks. But the text included a caveat: "the assessment provides no data on what proportion of total mobile targets were hit or the level of damage inflicted." Translation, according to a senior Pentagon official: "Here's the Air Force chart. We don't think it means anything." In its most recent report extolling the triumph of the air war, even the Air Force stopped using data from the Corley report.
Interviewed by NEWSWEEK, General Clark refused to get into an on-the-record discussion of the numbers. A spokesman for General Shelton asserted that the media, not the military, are obsessed with "bean-counting." But there are a lot of beans at stake. After the November election, the Pentagon will go through one of its quadrennial reviews, assigning spending priorities. The Air Force will claim the lion's share. A slide shown by one of the lecturers at a recent symposium on air power organized by the Air Force Association, a potent Washington lobby, proclaimed: "It's no myth... the American Way of War."
The risk is that policymakers and politicians will become even more wedded to myths like "surgical strikes." The lesson of Kosovo is that civilian bombing works, though it raises moral qualms and may not suffice to oust tyrants like Milosevic. Against military targets, high-altitude bombing is overrated. Any commander in chief who does not face up to those hard realities will be fooling himself.
Clark: "Uhh huh huh huh...uh..we hit some tanks? ...huh huh huh..."
Shea: "Yeah...heh heh heh...like we hit some tanks and stuff...heh heh heh"
Clark: "Shutup assmunch....uhhh..huh huh huh....that';s what I just said!"
As far as the F-117, it is first generation stealth technology, and the materials it's made of aren't all that exotic, IIRC.
To his credit, Clark was dubious about Air Force claims and triedat least at firstto gain an accurate picture of the bombing in Kosovo. At the end of the war the Serbs' ground commander, Gen. Nobojsa Pavkovic, claimed to have lost only 13 tanks. "Serb disinformation," scoffed Clark. But quietly, Clark's own staff told him the Serb general might be right. "We need to get to the bottom of this," Clark said. So at the end of June, Clark dispatched a team into Kosovo to do an on-the-ground survey. The 30 experts, some from NATO but most from the U.S. Air Force, were known as the Munitions Effectiveness Assessment Team, or MEAT. Later, a few of the officers would refer to themselves as "dead meat."
The team grubbed about in bomb craters, where more than once they were showered with garbage the local villagers were throwing into these impromptu rubbish pits.
Interviewed by NEWSWEEK, General Clark refused to get into an on-the-record discussion of the numbers.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.