1Planes directed by U.N. forward air controller) (730)

By Jacquelyn S. Porth

USIA Security Affairs Writer

Washington -- The bombing missions U.S. aircraft flew against Bosnian Serb

positions in the Gorazde area two days in a row were part of a NATO

operation designed to bring the warring factions back to the negotiating

table, says a U.S. military official.

"This is a NATO operation," Lieutenant General Jack Sheehan, director of

operations for the Joint Staff, stressed April 11 at a Pentagon news

conference on the alliance action in Bosnia in which U.S. aircraft provided

close air support for United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) personnel

who were threatened by Serb fire on April 10 and April 11.

The bombing run on April 10 was carried out by two U.S. F-16s flying under

the control of a U.N. forward air controller, and the subsequent mission,

on April 11, by an F/A-18A flying under the same circumstances, Sheehan


U.S. aircraft normally fly "only 50 percent" of NATO missions over Bosnia,

Sheehan said, because there are "a lot" of NATO air assets in the area.  It

was purely coincidental, he said, that U.S. assets were flying close air

support missions on both days.

A request for close air support was made by the U.N. Force Command on April

10 to the NATO and U.N. chains of command after U.N. military observers in

Gorazde came under "direct fire" from snipers and tanks, according to

Admiral Michael Kramer, director of intelligence for the Joint Staff.

Approval was granted within 25 minutes.

The F-16Cs dropped three MK-82 bombs on a Serb command post consisting of a

large tent and some military vehicles, all of which were destroyed in the

attack, he said.  The command post was not the first target of choice,

Sheehan said, but, because of bad weather, the U.S. pilots could not locate

the Serb tanks which had been firing into Gorazde.

Although the Serb attack stopped after the first bombing on April 10, Kramer

said, the Serbs resumed their attack on U.N. military observer (UNMO)

facilities on April 11 at an even heavier rate: eight shells per minute.

He described it as "directed and precise fire" from artillery batteries

which was hitting within 50 meters of the UNMOs, and U.N. High Commissioner

for Refugees personnel were reporting shells within 200 meters of their


On April 11, Sheehan said U.S. F/A-18s did not hit the attacking Serb

positions immediately.  Instead, he said, they flew a couple of "high-speed

supersonic runs" against the Serbs so there would be "no questions" in the

Serbs' minds that the pilots of the U.S. aircraft were witnessing their

violation of Security Council Resolution 836.  In the meantime, the

official said, UNPROFOR (U.N. Protection Force) Commander Michael Rose

pursued last-minute efforts to broker a cease-fire in Gorazde.

When those failed, the aircraft were authorized to use 120mm guns and MK-82

bombs against a group of Serbian heavy military vehicles thought to include

BTR-60 armored personnel carriers (APCs) and T-55 tanks.  Kramer said the

bomb damage assessment was still incomplete, but he thought at least three

APCs and a truck were destroyed.  He said the Serbian guns have been still

since the second air strike.

U.N. Resolution 836 "is not an elective option," Sheehan said, explaining

that it allows for the use of air power, in and around safe areas such as

Gorazde, to support UNPROFOR in the performance of its mandate.

Asked about the level of NATO force used against Serb positions, Sheehan

said, "Clearly the intent is to get the warring parties back to the

(negotiating) table."  Military might won't solve the problem in Bosnia, he

1aid, stressing that "peace has to be something that all parties in this

region want."

Asked to assess the continuing danger posed by the Serbs around Gorazde, he

cited reports that a few Serb tanks have crossed the Drina River.  Asked if

the Serbs have the capability to overrun Gorazde, Kramer said, "in absolute

military terms, over time, left to their own devices, without external

forces being added to the problem, that is a reasonable military

assessment.  Yes."