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Operation ALLIED FORCE was the U.S. code name for peace operations, with NATO, in Kosovo in 1999. It was a bombing campaign intended to compel Serbia, under President Slobodan Milosevic, to stop operations against the Kosovars.[1] The campaign was urged by Supreme Allied Commander Europe GEN Wesley Clark. It was authorized by United States Security Council Resolution 1199 of 23 September 1998. Operation NOBLE ANVIL was the American component of this NATO action.

The strategy drew on the air effects produced by Operation DESERT STORM in Iraq; it was hoped that air operations alone could produce a relatively clean result. No followup operations were planned, and it did not involve a commitment of massive force as would have been called for under the Weinberger-Powell Doctrine. Andrew Bacevich criticized Clark for not being prepared for Milosevic's response, which was to disperse their forces and accelerate ethnic cleansing. [2]


A series of NATO operations, of increasing intensity, preceded the major air strikes.[3]


From 15 October 1992 to 12 April 1993, NATO aircraft observed the No-Fly Zone declared by the United Nations Security Council against flights by military aircraft of the warring factions over Bosnia during the fighting in Former Yugoslavia. This operation was followed by the enforcement operation known as DENY FLIGHT.


Betwern 12 April 1993 amd 21 December 1995, NATO aircraft enforced the UN Security Council’s No-Fly Zone over Bosnia. Subsequent additions to Operation DENY FLIGHT included Close Air Support to UN peacekeepers and air strikes in support of UN resolutions. On 28 February 1994 NATO engaged in the first combat operations in its history when DENY FLIGHT aircraft shot down four Bosnian Serb fighter-bombers conducting a bombing mission in violation of the No-Fly Zone.

Operation DEADEYE

After a mortar attack caused heavy loss of life at a marketplace in Sarajevo, UN peacekeepers requested NATO airstrikes, in the form of suppression of enemy air defense operations that began on 30 August against Bosnian Serb air defences (Operation DEADEYE) and lasted through the night.


When a bombing pause failed to result in Bosnian Serb compliance with the UN’s demands to withdraw, Operation DELIBERATE FORCE targeted Bosnian Serb command & control installations and ammunition facilities, in operations from 5 - 14 September 1995. These airstrikes were a key factor in bringing the Serbs to the negotiating table and ending the war in Bosnia.


Air support was part of NATO’s first peace enforcement operation, conducted between , 20 December 1995 - 20 December 1996. The Implementation Force (IFOR) – which had the mission of implementing the military aspects of the peace agreement for Bosnia (separation of warring factions and creating safe and secure conditions for the other tasks associated with the peace agreement). Approximately 60,000 troops from the 16 NATO members and 17 non-NATO countries including Russia participated in IFOR initially.


20 December 1996 - 20 June 1998 Following the end of Operation JOINT ENDEAVOUR and the completion of the initial military tasks for implementing the peace agreement, NATO continued leading the international peacekeeping operation in Bosnia with a new focus and a smaller force now bearing the name Stabilisation Force (SFOR) instead of Implementation Force (IFOR).


20 June 1998 - 2 December 2004 After the situation in Bosnia continued to improve, requiring fewer peacekeepers, and the Bosnian state acquired increased sovereignty including control of its airspace, NATO again reduced the size of the SFOR (Stabilisation Force) peacekeeping operation and made changes to the mission, which finally ended on 2 December 2004 when a European Union-led force (EUFOR; the operation was named ALTHEA) took over.

Operation EAGLE EYE

At the request of the United Nations Security Council, between 30 October 1998 and 24 March 1999, NATO aircraft conducted surveillance of Kosovo, to verify Serb compliance with UN resolutions regarding a ceasefire and with NATO-Serb agreements regarding force reductions in Kosovo. Failure to comply with these agreements led to the major ALLIED FORCE operation. The EAGLE EYE operations provided operational intelligence that would have value.


Between 4 December 1998 and 20 March 1999, NATO made contingency plans for the evacuation of OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) monitors in Kosovo. The Serbs expelled OSCE personnel four days before the start of operations.

Original plan

As originally conceived, the plan had multiple phases, with the intent of only applying force until Milosevic complied. Only the initial phases were implemented when it became obvious that Milosevic was not going to respond in the desired manner. [1]

The initial phases could reasonably be considered battlefield air interdiction, as the targets either were directly associated with forces being used in Kosovo, or Serbian forces that could interfere with operations in Kosovo.

  • Phase Zero: During Phase 0, begun 20 January 1999, air forces of NATO ostentatiously moved to operational bases, with the intent of sending a political signal.
  • Phase One: Limited air operations against designated militarily significant targets, beginning on 24 March 1999 with suppression of enemy air defense the integrated air defense system of the the entire Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
  • Phase Two: Extended to the security forces infrastructure military in Kosovo and reinforcement forces (e.g. headquarters, telecommunication installations, material and ammunition depot, systems for production and storage of fuel, barracks)
  • Phase Three: while this was not implemented, it was to change to a strategic bombing program against "a broad range of particularly important targets of military importance north of the 44th parallel in the entire Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" [4] By a month into the air campaign it became apparent to NATO that a constrained, phased approach was not effective.

Two more phases were never begun:

  • Phase Four -- [support of stabilization operations?]
  • Phase Five -- [redeployment operations?]

When effects were not realized

The US demanded more tactical freedom, and, at the NATO Summit in April was given more choices within the target scope of Phases 1 and 2.

Weather and target acquisition were major issues.

Air defense was unexpectedly robust. The Soviet-designed 2K12 KUB, usually described its DIA and NATO designation, SA-6 GAINFUL, was particularly effective. [5] While there has not been official confirmation, the SA-6 may have been involved in shooting down a U.S. F-117 Nighthawk "stealth" fighter. Actual detection may have used an older long-wave radar, with the SA-6 fired using electro-optical guidance. When the missile threatened the F-117, the latter may have maneuvered away, and into the path of fighters or AAA. [6]


On 3 June, President Slobodan Milosevic finally accepted peace terms presented by EU envoy President Martti Ahtisaari and Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin. With the authorisation of the United Nations on 10 June 1999, NATO forces deployed into Kosovo. [1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Operation ALLIED FORCE/Operation NOBLE ANVIL, Globalsecurity
  2. Andrew Bacevich (2005), The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195173384pp. 58-61
  3. NATO’s Operations 1949 - Present, North Atlantic Treaty Organization
  4. 24 Apr. 1999 NATO Press Conference
  5. Anthony Cordesman (August, 2000), The Effectiveness of the NATO Tactical Air and Missile Campaign Against Serbian Air and Ground Forces in Kosovo: A Working Paper, Center for Strategic and International Studies
  6. A Lost Illusion