Bosnian AEZ plans

AS WE WENT to press it was uncertain whether the United Nations Security Council enforcement of an air-exclusion zone (AEZ) over Bosnia would be implemented. Plans for the AEZ had been drawn-up in response to Serbian air attacks on Muslim enclaves in eastern Bosnia in mid-March. Raids on villages around Srebrenica had been undertaken by Antonov An-2 Colt biplanes and unspecified crop-spraying aircraft adapted to carry bombs. Russian objections have led to the decision to postpone plans for the AEZ, pending further discussions. As of late March, it was unclear whether the Russian objections could be overcome.

RAF Tornado F.3s from Leemina, North Yorks, and Leuchars, Fife together with Jaguar GR.1s from Coltishall, Norfolk had already been put on standby to fly to the region.

Sea Harrier from HMS Art Royal, currently in the Adriatic were also available if needed, as were 11 French Jaguars and four Mirage 2000s forward based at Solenzara, Corsica. US aircraft would also have been involved.

A draft UN resolution, prepared by France and backed by Britain and the US, will allow NATO aircraft to employ ‘all necessary means’ to enforce a ban on all aircraft flying from Bosnian bases. Despite increasing evidence that raids on Bosnia are originating from neighbouring Serbia, the resolution will not allow Allied aircraft to mount raids there. Although a UN-imposed no-fry zone over Bosnia come into effect last October to stop air attacks, by late March the zone had been violated over 450 times, mostly by Serbs.

Meanwhile, the USAF Operation Provide Promise, airdropping food and medical supplies, continues with C-130 Hercules operating out of Rhein-Main, Germany, using examples from the resident 435th AW and units from the USA Missions are currently dropping about 30 tons every night. As the situation worsens, an additional three or four USAF aircraft were expected to join the airdrop. Three German Transall C.160s were being prepared to join in from late March, allowing German political approval, granted on March 24.

In addition, French participation was also being considered, possibly utilising aircraft currently employed on the Sarajevo run. Deployment of two CIS 11-76 Candidi to Rhein-Main to support these operations has also been under discussion but may now not materialise in view of Russian objections to the AEZ.

On March 24 the UN also announced that an airlift would begin immediately to evacuate wounded Moslems from the besieged Bosnian town of Srebrenica using British and French helicopters.

However, despite assurances from Serb leaders that they would not interfere, the Serbs shelled the UN pad on a football field at Srebrenica just after departure of the first three French Army Puma helicopters carrying 21 sick and wounded civilians.

A civilian was killed and two Canadian peacekeepers were wounded, one of them seriously. They were then flown out, together with three Bosnian civilians, on two Royal Navy Sea King HC.4s of 845 Sqn which also came under fire upon landing. Serb forces later fired on a French helicopter about four miles east of Tuzla as it was returning empty — the ground fire passed very close to the port side of the aircraft, but it was not hit. Tuzla Airport, which is now being used as a base for the UN helicopters, was also shelled throughout the day to prevent helicopters taking off. As a result, the mercy missions had to be abandoned.

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