- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia As the Bush 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. air strikes against its military in 1999.
"That's a matter of serious and legitimate concern," said retired Gen. 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 worked closely with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime.
"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 American military experts was in Yugoslavia to determine what benefits Saddam's military had derived from its cooperation with Mr. Milosevic's 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 defenses 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 defenses. 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.
NATO won the war in June 1999, after 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. Only 14 tanks and a handful of armored vehicles were destroyed in nearly three months of bombing.
Teams of Iraqi intelligence officers rushed to Yugoslavia in the aftermath of the war to visit command centers and air-defense 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 reportedly were upgrading Iraq's fiber-optics communications network, modifying launchers of SA-6 surface-to-air missiles to allow them to hit targets without using ground guidance radars and adding 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 defenses.
"We realize that a conflict with Iraq will not be like Afghanistan," said retired Rear Adm. Stephen Baker of the Center for Defense Information in Washington. "Our tactics should be driven by what we learned in Kosovo."


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