The Kosovo War (also known as Operation Allied Force) was fought in 1999 between Serbia and NATO. NATO forces, under the command of General Wesley Clark, bombed the Serbs for 75 days to stop an alleged Serb campaign of ethnic cleansing against Kosovar Albanians. While efforts were made to minimize civilian casualties and the Serbian military was genearlly well hidden to avoid taking much damage, the Serbs capitulated under increasing use of bombing and destroying industrial targets. Indeed, the damage to their economy continued far beyond the war's end.
The air campaign kicked off on March 24. NATO bombers and ships attacked air defense sites, command and control centers, army bases, and support facilities. Serbian air defenses were particularly hard hit from the beginning, but they did score a major coup when an F-117 stealth fighter was downed on the fourth day of fighting (the pilot was rescued). Serbian air defense fighters also attempted to stop the strikes, but three MiG-29s were downed on the first day, two by American F-15s and one by a Dutch F-16, and two more were shot down two days later by F-15 pilot Jeff Hwang.
At first, a disproportionate number of targets were hit by cruise missiles, F-117s, and B-2 Spirit stealth bombers. As Serbian air defences were destroyed or rendered useless, more conventional aircraft, including B-52s, entered the fight. The range of targets expanded as well, including power plants and factories. Some of the strikes hit Belgrade itself. More attacks were also conducted against Serbian Army and militia units in Kosovo in an effort to stop the ethnic cleansing.
In spite of heavy use of precision weapons (proportionally four times more than in the Gulf War), there were some incidents of strikes going awry. On May 7, a B-2 strike hit the Chinese embassy with a guided bomb, killing three Chinese nationals. The error was blamed on out-of-date maps, and the United States apologized for the incident and paid compensation. A mid-level officer at the CIA was later fired over his responsibility for the incident.
By early June, Slobodan Milosevic was ready to negotiate, and by June 9, an agreement had been reached for Serbian forces to leave Kosovo. The 75-day campaign had seen about 37,000 sorties and over 300 cruise missiles launched. NATO combat losses were two aircraft shot down by SAMs, and no casualties.
NATO forces occupied Kosovo as Albanians who had fled during the conflict returned. They were generally unable to protect Serbian Christians living in Kosovo, the founding place of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and the majority of the Serbian Christian population has since fled. Kosovo's parliament declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move that was not accepted by Serbia, but received the support of NATO, bypassing the United Nations. Russia, who has veto power in the United Nations, was not pleased at the move that it considered to be a heavyhanded slap against its traditional ally Serbia.
- F-15C Eagle Units in Combat, by Steve Davies, Osprey Publishing, 2005
- Modern Military Aircraft in Combat, ed. by Robert Jackson, Amber Books, 2008
- CIA takes rap for embassy attack
- The Collapse of Yugoslavia, by Alastair Finlan, Osprey Publishing, 2004