NATO claims its aircraft destroyed 120 Serb armored vehicles and tons
of other military hardware during its recent Balkans bashing. But as
reported in this space last week,
down in the Kosovo mud our grunts say, “It ain’t so.”
Our warriors say it sure looks like NATO, after blowing a cool $4
billion on bombs and missiles, didn’t do the demo job as hyped. Pound
for pound of enemy gear destroyed, this is America’s costliest war.
So how did the Serbs pull the wool over NATO’s electronic eyes and
foil the most high-tech military force in history?
Simple. They used their imaginations and adapted tricks and
deceptions that’ve been around since long before the Trojan Horse rolled
into Troy. And our electronic spies in the sky and other high-tech
gadgets, gadgeteers and generals fell for it.
During the conflict, smart bombs and missiles costing from 50 grand
to 2 million bucks repeatedly blew up decoy “tanks,” “artillery pieces”
and other “targets” made of sticks and plastic, some of which included
primitive heat sources for faking out gold-plated thermal-image systems
in NATO aircraft.
Our guys in Kosovo have found hundreds of imitation tanks, trucks,
artillery pieces, missiles and missile launchers, roads and even
bridges, which NATO aircraft and cruise missiles had “destroyed.” “From
up close they look like junk, but from three miles up, they’d look like
the real thing,” says an Army sergeant.
Real roads and bridges were painted to show “battle damage” to con
NATO satellites and reconnaissance aircraft into thinking they’d already
been knocked out.
Another trick used by the Yugoslav army was to set up dummy
mobile-air-defense missile units. Many of these were placed next to
fake bridges (made out of logs) and mock roads — strips of black
plastic sheeting laid across open fields with “tanks” and other
“military vehicles” painted on them.
U.S. aircraft flying at 15,000 feet had a field day blowing up these
“Serb air defense units” and other dummy targets, while their spinners
back at NATO headquarters daily chanted to the world, “We are
significantly degrading their air defense and combat ability.”
Serb commanders worked out that NATO did most of their reconnaissance
during the daytime, after which targets were laboriously picked by
generals, diplomats and horse-holders for presidents and prime ministers
to approve, then assigned to pilots who’d be tasked to zap them. So as
soon as darkness fell, Serb units scooted to new positions and began the
mock-up game. One Serb commanding officer said, “From the 300
projectiles which NATO has fired, only four have hit something of
Another Serb CO said his unit would fire at attacking NATO aircraft
and then quickly move his firing batteries, replacing them with
dummies. “The time it took NATO’s photo-reconnaissance people to
identify the point of fire … and return to bomb the mock-up was a
minimum of 12 hours. So we knew when we had to move our equipment —
every 12 hours,” he said.
The same officer said that Serb army technicians had taken apart an
unexploded $1 million U.S. Tomahawk missile and figured out that its
targeting largely depended on a chip that guided the rocket by heat
sources. As a result, soldiers burned tires parallel to major roads and
bridges. The burning tires emitted more heat than the surface of the
bridges themselves and attracted the missiles away from the vital
Saddam Hussein used similar tricks during Desert Storm. His heat
source was a can with burning oil, set next to a plywood or rubber
tank. An Iraqi prisoner of war said he knew of one such “tank” that
was “knocked out 10 times” by U.S. aircraft.
In February 1991, the Air Force reported they’d destroyed half of
Iraq’s tanks. This news triggered Stormin’ Norman’s ground attack.
U.S. units on the ground later discovered that only 13 percent of the
enemy tanks were knocked out. Luckily, the Iraqis didn’t have the
stomach for a fight, or we would’ve paid for this bad call in American
Fortunately, Milosevic’s army bugged out before our ground force hit
the deck, or our generals would be relearning the hard way that an
opposing army cannot be defanged at 15,000 feet regardless of how smart
the weapons and how all-seeing the eyes in the sky.