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NATO Aircraft Shot Down During Bosnian War

NATO Aircraft Shot Down During Bosnian War

When the war in Bosnia began Serbian forces had the clear upper hand. By inheriting large amounts of equipment and vehicles from YPA (Yugoslav People’s Army) it stood practically unopposed in the beginning of the war. As the time went on and western support for Bosnian muslims and Croats the balance will be slowly shifted.


Most important support that Bosnian muslims received from the west was UN no fly zone later reinforced by NATO’s operation “deny flight” that by the end of the war turned in NATO’s first bombing campaign in history known  as operation “deliberate force”. Republic of Srpska, having an air force consisted purely of close air support aircraft and light attack aircraft could not put up a fight in the skies against NATO, which became very evident when on 28 of February 1994 when 5 Serbian J-21 Jastreb light attack aircraft were shot down by 4 American F-16 south-west of Banjaluka. However Republic of Srpska had a fairly decent anti-aircraft forces at the time and was ready to put up a fierce resistance form the ground.


NATO air force started attacking Serbian forces even before the official start of operation “deliberate force” (30th of August 1995) as on April 10th of 1994 NATO bombed Serbian forces near the besieged city of Goražde. This resulted in Serbs strengthening their anti-aircraft forces in the region, this show the effect on 15th of April the same year when french scouting aeroplane Etendard IVP was struck by a surface to air missile. Pilot managed to fly back to the aircraft carried Clemenceau but the aeroplane was no longer in flying condition after that.


Already the next day Serbian forces shot down a British sea harrier with shoulder launched “strela 2M”, aeroplane crashed in Serb controlled territory while pilot ejected from the plane and managed to land in muslim controlled territory.


As the bombing carried in 1995 Serbian forces became more experienced in dealing with NATO air force, and so on 2nd of June ’95 anti-aircraft forces of Republic of Srpska shot down American F-16C. The aircraft was shot down with a quite specific tactic. System used to shoot down the F-16C was 2K12 Kub, in the west known as SA-6. While it had a fairly large range it was very easily detected due to using radar to guide its missiles and so Serbian crew couldn’t risk holding the radar on for too long. Once they were sure that the aircraft entered their range they turned their radar on for just a couple of seconds, too short for the pilots in F-16 above them to receive a signal of danger but enough for them to estimate what altitude, speed and direction aeroplane was flying in. they would aim their rockets in a general direction of NATO jets and fire two missiles without turning the radar on. Only 5 seconds before missiles reached altitude of American jets radar was turned on, pilots received the warning that they are being targeted but by that point there was no time to evade. First missile exploded between the two jets while the second one struck a direct hit one struck a direct hit on a plane that was piloted by Scot O’Grady who managed to eject from his burning aircraft and was rescued after 6 days of hiding from Serb forces.


There were few more occasions on which NATO air force fired upon Serbian troops but it all culminated on august 30th 1995 when aircraft of the alliance began attacking Serb SAM positions near Sarajevo, officially starting operation “deliberate force”.  However bad weather didn’t help the attacker and NATO aircraft was forced to fly pretty low in order to hit their targets, such instance was near the town of Pale where French mirage 2000N had to fly under the clouds. The plane was spotted by young commander Aleksandar Studen who was able to lock on the aeroplane’s engine with his “9K38 Igla” shoulder launched SAM and fire once he was sure the rocket will hit its target. Rocket successfully hit the engine of the aircraft, and being a single-jet aeroplane, Mirage became uncontrollable and the 2 pilots ejected. The two pilots, Jose Souvignet Frederic Chiffot, were captured quickly upon landing, however information about captured pilots have not gone public for a while resulting in a least 3 attempts by NATO to find and rescue the two pilots. During one of the rescue attempts one MH-53 helicopter was damaged when Serbs opened fire on it and the rescue mission was called off.


During the operation anti-aircraft forces of Republic of Srpska also shot down two American MQ-1 Predator UAVs. But even though Serbian AA put up a stiff defense, NATO campaign pressed on which was main reason why was combined Muslim-Croatian offensive so succesful in taking most of the land Republic of Srpska held in the west of the country.