NATO pilots were duped into obliterating stolen microwave ovens
instead of the rather more deadly Serbian battle tanks for almost half
of last year's Kosovo air offensive.
According to a British officer who spent six months in the province
and conducted his own bomb damage assessment, the Serbs decoyed Allied
aircraft by using microwaves looted from Albanian homes to simulate
the infra-red signature of armoured vehicles.
The ovens were switched on when allied aircraft flew overhead. Hidden
in buildings, they mimicked the heat given off by the engines of tanks
or personnel carriers. These are run every few hours to keep batteries
charged and their emissions can be picked up by airborne or satellite
sensors and used to target strikes.
Nato's propaganda machine announced initially more than 100 main
battle tanks had been destroyed, along with 250 armoured personnel
carriers and 389 artillery guns and mortars. This was based on
"rigorous assessment" of 3000 ground attack missions, and the claims
of 1995 pilots.
The alliance has now revised its strike-rate downwards to 93 tanks and
153 other armoured vehicles. Some targets, it admits, had been struck
more than once and then claimed by different pilots. These figures
have since been revised, but only slightly: independent monitors found
evidence of a mere 13 knocked out tanks.
The officer, who spoke to The Herald on condition he was not
identified, found just three. He said: "The Serbs displayed a lot of
cunning to escape Nato's bombs. Using stolen microwave ovens to draw
the alliance's teeth was just one trick among many.
"The beauty of it was that it cost them nothing, since they had looted
the decoying devices in the first place. On the other hand, a
laser-guided bomb costs about г30,000. They had also learned from
the Iraqi experience in the Gulf War. Anti-armour weapons leave a very
small penetration hole in the hull of a tank or armoured carrier. The
damage is all inside. And it is not visible from the 15,000 foot
ceiling set by the Americans to avoid losing planes or pilots.
"The Serbs simply moved the few vehicles knocked out from the air
to a new location to become a magnet for more useless attacks."