Pentagon chiefs say air campaign exposed weaknesses
Thursday, October 14th 1999, 12:00 am
News On 6
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Serb army's ability to maintain its air
defenses in the face of heavy NATO bombing shows that the United
States must improve its electronic combat power for future wars,
Defense Secretary William Cohen and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen.
Henry H. Shelton told Congress today.
In an "after-action review" of Operation Allied Force, the
78-day NATO campaign against Yugoslavia, Cohen and Shelton said Air
Force RC-135 electronic eavesdropping planes and Navy and Marine
Corps EA-6B electronic attack aircraft were stretched thin against
a formidable Serb air defense.
The Serbs successfully husbanded most of their best air defense
weapons, prompting NATO commanders to keep allied attack planes at
higher altitudes, thus reducing their effectiveness against ground
"We need to find innovative and affordable ways to exploit our
technological skills in electronic combat to bring greater pressure
to bear on a future enemy's air defense system," they said in a
joint written statement summarizing the findings thus far in an
ongoing Pentagon study of the Kosovo conflict.
Cohen and Shelton presented the 18-page statement at a Senate
Armed Services Committee hearing on the war.
The Pentagon leaders painted a picture of a tremendously
successful NATO campaign that ultimately won Yugoslav President
Slobodan Milosevic's capitulation and the return of the Kosovar
"As a watershed in NATO's long history, Operation Allied Force
was an overwhelming success," they wrote. The bombing campaign was
the largest combat operation in NATO's 50-year history, but its
success appeared to be in doubt until Milosevic abruptly gave in to
NATO's demands in early June.
Of the weaknesses in U.S. and NATO capabilities described in the
Cohen-Shelton report, virtually none was characterized as severe.
One of the main areas for improvement, they said, was in
planning. For example, the military needs to plan more
comprehensively for the early activation of reservists with certain
specialty skills such as language translation and intelligence
analysis, they said.
Also, the allies in Europe need to develop more precision-guided
munitions like the satellite-guided bombs the United States used
effectively in Kosovo, they said. The allies also lack secure
communications systems that are compatible with those of the United
States; this disparity forced allied pilots to use non-secure
methods of communication that allowed the Serbs to compromise
operations, they said.