NATO Losses and the Military Costs
It is clear from the amount and quality of intelligence received by this journal from a variety of highly-reputable sources that NATO forces have already suffered significant losses of men, women and material.
Neither NATO, nor the US, UK or other member governments, have admitted to these losses, other than the single USAF F-117A Stealth fighter which was shown, crashed and burning inside Serbia. The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff had denied, about a month into the bombing, that the US had suffered the additional losses reported to Defense & Foreign Affairs.
By April 20, 1999, NATO losses stood at approximately the following:
- 38 fixed-wing combat aircraft;
- Six helicopters;
- Seven unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs);
- "Many" Cruise Missiles (lost to AAA or SAM fire).
Several other NATO aircraft were reported down after that date, including at least one of which there was Serbian television coverage. The aircraft reportedly include three F-117A Stealth strike aircraft, including the one already known. One of the remaining two was shot down in an air-to-air engagement with a Yugoslav Air Force MiG-29 fighter; the other was lost to AAA (anti-aircraft artillery) or SAM (surface-to-air missile) fire. Given the recovery by the Yugoslavs of F-117A technology, and the fact that the type has proven less than invincible, the mystique of the aircraft a valuable deterrent tool until now for the US has been lost.
At least one USAF F-15 Eagle fighter has been lost, with the pilot, reportedly an African-American major, alive and in custody as a POW. At least one German pilot (some sources say two men, implying perhaps a Luftwaffe crew from a Tornado) has been captured. There is also a report that at least one US female pilot has been killed.
In one instance in the first week of the fighting, an aircraft was downed near Podgorica. A NATO helicopter then picked up the downed pilot, but the helicopter itself was then shot down, according to a number of reports.
Losses of US and other NATO ground force personnel, inside Serbia, have also been extensive. A Yugoslav Army unit ambushed a squad climbing a ravine south of Pristina, killing 20 men. When the black tape was taken from their dog-tags it was found that 12 were US Green Berets; eight were British special forces (presumably Special Air Service/SAS). This incident apparently occurred within a week or so of the bombing campaign launch.
It is known that other US and other NATO casualties have, on some occasions, been retrieved by NATO forces after being hit inside Yugoslavia. At least 30 bodies of US servicemen have been processed through Athens, after being transported from the combat zone.
At least two of the helicopters downed by the Yugoslavs were carrying troops, and in these two a total of 50 men were believed to have been killed, most of them (but not all) of US origin. Certainly, the US has lost to ground fire and malfunction a number of Tomahawk Cruise Missiles. At least some of these have been retrieved more or less intact, and the technology has been immediately reviewed by Yugoslav engineers. More than one told this writer that the technology was now readily able to be replicated in Yugoslavia.
The war has cost Alliance members in other ways, too. There is enormous disaffection with the US Armed Forces. For a start, to prosecute even the smallest expansion of the war requires the callup of Reserve and National Guard units. The personnel from these units have civilian jobs, and, as with the US involvement in S-FOR in Bosnia-Herzegovina, being called up for active duty in the Balkans seems to be an openended thing. This is not the type of national emergency for which most of them signed-on. On top of that, there are questions about the wisdom of the orders they are receiving, and a total lack of clear strategic (let alone military) objectives. One serving career mid-level military officer in the US told this writer: "I am incredibly appalled at this war, or whatever it is, and the lack of strategic thought; the bungling, stumbling blind policies which have led to this [situation], and the murderous impact on not just the Serbs and Kosovars, but on the concepts of conflict resolution and sovereignty." The officer continued: "I am very upset, and while I have been vocal in my small world, and many agree with me, I am part of a system that is stumbling as best it can to implement the failed brainwork of the NCA [National Command Authority; the President] and Secretary of State, and General Wesley Clark (Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, for NATO), too. Why havent the military leadership stepped up and put their job on the line for common sense."
The problem is not confined to the US forces. In Britain, a near mutiny was reported aboard the carrier HMSInvincible. And as news of very real NATO casualties emerge, morale will decline. Meanwhile, those who have any knowledge of the facts know that since 1948, Yugoslavia, particularly under Tito, has been preparing to fight, literally, World War III.
NATO heavy armor may indeed roll easily across the Albanian border, or down across the fertile plains of Vojvodina from Hungary, right into Belgrade. But most of Yugoslavia is mountainous, and the mountains filled with underground fuel supplies, ammunition factories, probably oil refineries, buried hangars and roads which become airstrips. And those in the US Armed Forces believe that the Clinton White House, from the President an anti-Vietnam War protester and conscription dodger and First Lady down to the young Clintonite staffers, hate the US Armed Forces with a passion. It is clear that the determination of the Yugoslavs to defend their country has strengthened; after all, they have nowhere else to go. But already the morale of the NATO forces is declining.