Kosovo and Theater Air Mobility
AIR UNIV MAXWELL AFB AL AIRPOWER JOURNAL
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To the surprise of many, airpower played the deciding role in a major theater war. In Operation Allied Force, airpower forced Slobodan Milosevic to the bargaining table and convinced him to withdraw thousands of troops, police, and paramilitaries while letting an international peacekeeping force enter Kosovo. Remarkably, this was accomplished without the loss of a single NATO airman in combat, despite 78 days in which NATO aircrews faced a dangerous, well-equipped enemy. In this endeavor, the US Air Force contributed half of the total air assets and an even greater share of the air refueling, reconnaissance, and precision-weapon-capable aircraft. This successful display of airpower employed a percentage of todays smaller Air Force roughly equivalent to that required for Operation Desert Storm. Air mobility played a crucial role by enabling and sustaining the air war that ultimately forced Milosevic to accede to NATO demands. This was no easy task. Unlike Desert Storm, the United States did not have six months to position its forces. Allied Force demanded a continuous air-mobility reinforcement and sustainment effort until the end of hostilities. From the beginning of the air war on 24 March 1999, the US Air Force contribution grew from 3 to 10 air expeditionary wings. Even while it executed this tremendous force buildup, the air-mobility team provided aid directly to thousands of Kosovar refugees, and it deployed a large US Army contingent to Albania. Despite the challenges, the Kosovo air-mobility story is a happy one. The integrated effort between theater mobility forces and Air Mobility Command AMC produced one of the smoothest air-mobility operations in Air Force history. AMC-tasked mobility forces bore the majority of the burden, expending nearly two-thirds of the total airlift effort to move US-based fighters, bombers, and support assets to the fight as well as providing munitions resupply and other sustainment.
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