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Operation Determined Force

On 13 October 1998, NATO's North Atlantic Council (NAC) issued Operation Determined Force's activation order. Operation Determined Force's objective was to provide a threat of force should the Serbian authorities fail to comply with the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1199, adopted on 23 September 1998, which called for an immediate ceasefire in Kosovo and the establishment of a verification mission to observe its enforcement.

On 9 October 1998, the US commited Operation Cobalt Flash forces to support Operation Determined Force in possible air raids against Serb forces in Kosovo. Cobalt Flash was a broad buildup of US forces in the region to support Operation Determined Response. This was in addition to existing US deployments into the region in response to growing violence in Kosovo in 1998. In August 1998, US General Wesley Clark, then commander of US European Command (EUCOM) and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR), initiated Operations Flexible Anvil and Sky Anvil to conduct Kosovo-specific mission planning. Operation Flexible Anvil, led by Joint Task Force Flexible Anvil, would look at the possibility for tomahawk land attack cruise missile strikes and carrier-borne air strikes led by Commander, US Sixth Fleet. Operation Sky Anvil, led by Joint Task Force Sky Anvil, would look at the possibility for air-launched cruise missile and other air strikes led by Sixteenth Air Force. These missions were eventually tasked to support Operation Determined Force.

In October 1998, President Clinton approved Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen's recommendation to commit "substantial forces," over 200 aircraft, to stand ready as diplomats from the United States and other nations made final attempts to resolve the conflict in the Balkins. While the force commitment did not signify that a NATO political decision to use military force had been taken, it did signal the commitment of the US government to the resolution of the crisis in Kosovo.

The US commitment of about 260 aircraft would stand ready support NATO air operations. Overall, NATO planned for 430 aircraft should strikes occur, bringing the US force to about 60 percent of that total. As of early October 1998, the US commitment included: About 120 land-based multirole aircraft, including F-15s, F-16s, F-117s and EA-6B's; a Navy carrier air wing of 72 aircraft, including 46 strike and 26 support aircraft; 6 B-52 and 2 B-2 aircraft; about 10 reconnaissance aircraft; about 10 search-and-rescue aircraft; 3 airborne command-and-control aircraft; about 40 aerial refueling aircraft; and a number of Navy surface combatants of the US Sixth Fleet.

As part of the buildup, the US Air Force formed 4 air expeditionary wings on 11 Oct 1998 to help simplify lines of command and control should a NATO-led force be directed on Kosovo and NATO call for an air strike on Kosovo later that week. The units were formed to support the possibility of air operations over Serbia. The activation of an expeditionary command and control structure, under the leadership of Air Force Lieutenant General Mike Short, 16th Air Force commander, signaled a transition from military planning to military operations. The 16th Air Expeditionary Wing had B-52 bombers capable of delivering conventionally armed cruise missiles, RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft, F-15C multi-role fighters, and KC-135 tankers. The 31st Air Expeditionary Wing-SA included F-16C/CG multi-role fighters, A-10 ground attack aircraft, EC-130 airborne battlefield command and control centers, U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, and KC-135s tankers. Deployed at Aviano Air Base, Italy, the 31st Air Expeditionary Wing also included US F-117s, F-16s, O/A-10s, EA-6Bs, EC-130E, EC-130Hs, and KC-135s; Portugese EF-18s; Canadian CF-18s; and Spanish KC-130s, supporting both Bosnia and Kosovo operations. The 86th Air Expeditionary Wing-SA included C-130 airlift aircraft and KC-10 tankers. The 100th Expeditionary Air Refueling Wing provided additional KC-135 Stratotankers. The 4 new Air Expeditionary Wings joined 3 Air Force wings already in Italy supporting air operations in Bosnia. About 65 Air Force aircraft are involved with this operation.

Approximately 15 F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft and approximately 250 airmen from the 48th Fighter Wing, the "Liberty Wing", deployed from RAF Lakenheath to a forward location at Cervia Air Base, Italy in support of possible NATO contingency operations in Kosovo. Six B-52 Stratofortress aircraft arrived at RAF Fairford on 11 October 1998 from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana to support possible NATO contingency operations in Kosovo. About 260 US airmen also deployed to support the B-52s. Fairford was selected to receive the aircraft because of its runway length and ability to be activated at short notice at any given time. Fairford was a former Strategic Air Command base and was still used as an alternate emergency landing site for the space shuttle.

On 13 October 1998, NATO's higher decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, authorised an activation order allowing for both "limited air strikes" and a "phased air campaign" in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia should Yugoslav authorities refuse to comply with the UN resolution. The execution of these air strike options was initially set to begin not earlier than 96 hours from the authorization of the activation order, to allow time for negotiations between Ambassador Holbrooke and Former Yugoslav President Milosevic to bear fruit. On 14 October 1998, due to persisting tension in Kosovo, NATO's Standing Naval Force Mediterranean (STANAVFORMED) was temporarily detached to the Adriatic. This was added to the existing build up of forces in the region.

Progress in the diplomatic negotiations was largely due to pressure maintained by NATO through deployment of NATO air and naval assets in Italy and in the Adriatic sea. After 9 days of negotiations, Ambassador Holbrooke secured an agreement from President Milosevic to comply with the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1199, with both air and ground regimes to verify compliance.

In accordance with this agreement, signed on 15 October 1998, President Milosevic committed to cease hostilities and withdraw mobilized forces in Kosovo. Furthermore, the agreement allowed the international community to verify compliance by all parties with the provisions of UNSC Resolution 1199. This was to be conducted through NATO unarmed flights (Operation Eagle Eye) and the deployment in Kosovo of a Verification Mission provided by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The latter operation was supported by NATO (Operations Joint Guarantor and Determined Guarantor).

On 16 October 1998 the Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) sign in Belgrade an agreement establishing a verification mission in Kosovo, including the undertaking of FRY to comply with UNSC resolutions 1160 and 1199. And on 24 October 1998, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1203, which provided a mandate for the NATO and OSCE verification missions and demanded that all parties in Kosovo comply with the agreement.

As the 96 hour deadline for compliance with the negotiated settlement approached, the international community had clear evidence that Yugoslavia was still some distance from full compliance with the terms of the accord. While diplomatic efforts continued to secure full compliance, NATO decided to extend the period before execution of air strikes would begin. The extension gave President Milosevic until 27 October 98 to comply fully with UNSCR 1199. NATO additionally decided to maintain its readiness to launch air operations against the FRY, to include continuing deployment of substantial air forces in the region.

Just prior to the end of this extension on 27 October 1998, evidence indicated that Serbian military and security forces had made progress toward the demanded restraint and withdrawal. Despite the substantial steps, NATO's objective remained to achieve full compliance with UNSC resolutions. As a result, NATO decided to maintain both activation orders in place, with execution subject to decision by the North Atlantic Council. On 25-26 October 1998 NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the Chairman of NATO Military Committee met with Yugoslav President Milosevic and his Army Chief of Staff. NATO delivered a clear message pressing for immediate and total compliance with Security Council Resolution 1199 and related agreements. On 27 October 1998, NATO decided to maintain the activation order and to remain prepared to carry out air operations should they be necessary. Despite the progress made, the crisis was not over and NATO remained ready to act. The North Atlantic Council kept the situation in Kosovo under constant review. The activation orders for limited air operations and for phased air campaign remained in effect. NATO military forces remained prepared to carry out air operations should they be necessary. Meanwhile, NATO's focus was on ensuring the effectiveness of the verification regime with Operation Eagle Eye.

Disagreements within NATO about the exact course of action should combat operations occur and the realization that in the event such actions were taken that increased US involvement would likely be required, led to the end of Operations Flexible Anvil and Sky Anvil in December 1998. These effectively separate efforts were replaced in January 1999, with a truly joint operation, Noble Anvil, that would provide a simplified commands structure for US forces, Joint Task Force Noble Anvil, in the event that combat operations occured.

On 20 January 1999, NATO decided to increase the readiness of the assigned forces so as to make them able to execute the operation within 48 hours. On 29 January 1999, NATO decided to further increase its military preparedness to ensure that all demands by the international community were met. On 30 January 1999, the Contact Group demanded all parties to agree on a political settlement for Kosovo by 20 February 1999. NAC agreed that NATO's Secretary General had the authority authorise air strikes against targets on FRY territory in the event of a failure to reach an agreement.

On 19 February 1999, NATO's Secretary General reaffirmed that, if no agreement was reached by the deadline set by the Contact Group, NATO was ready to take whatever measures were necessary to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. On 20 February 1999, the Contact Group extends negotiations until 1400 GMT on 23 February 1999. On 23 February 1999, the Contact Group gave the parties another extension until 15 March 1999 to approve the Peace Plan in its entirety. Negotiations were conducted in Rambouillet and Paris, but were eventually adjourned, due to the unwillingness of the Yugoslav delegation to sign the proposed peace plan.

On 22 March 1999, in response to Belgrade's continued intransigence and repression, and in view of the evolution of the situation on the ground in Kosovo, the NAC authorised the Secretary General to decide, subject to further consultations, on a broader range of air operations if necessary. On 23 March 1999, all efforts to achieve a negotiated, political solution to the Kosovo crisis having failed, it was NATO's position that no alternative was open but to take military action. NATO's Secretary General directed the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) to initiate air operations in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Operation Determined Force ended on 23 March 1999 and air operations commenced on 24 March 1999 marking the start of Operation Allied Force.




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