- Feb 24, 2002
- Total Time
No new information in this article, but interesting to hear what this fellow has to say.
Posted on Wed, Oct. 26, 2005
Serb discusses 1999 downing of stealth
SKORENOVAC, Serbia-Montenegro - Col. Zoltan Dani was behind one of the most spectacular losses ever suffered by the U.S. Air Force: the 1999 shooting down of an F-117A stealth fighter.
Now, for the first time since that night six years ago, the former Serbian commander of an anti-aircraft missile battery has consented to speak publicly to Western media about the circumstances surrounding the unprecedented downing of a U.S. stealth plane.
The hit on the radar-evading plane on March 27, 1999, during the 78-day NATO campaign over Serbia, triggered doubts not only about the F-117s, but also about the entire concept of stealth technology on which the U.S. Air Force has based its newest generation of warplanes.
Military analysts debated how the planes would fare in a war against a militarily sophisticated opponent if an obsolescent air defense such as Serbia's could manage to track and destroy them.
In an interview this week with The Associated Press, Dani said the F-117 was detected and shot down during a moonless night - just three days into the war - by a Soviet-made SA-3 Goa surface-to-air missile.
"We used a little innovation to update our 1960s-vintage SAMs to detect the Nighthawk," Dani said. He declined to discuss specifics, saying the exact nature of the modification to the warhead's guidance system remains a military secret.
It involved "electromagnetic waves," was all that Dani - who now owns a small bakery in this sleepy village just north of Belgrade - would divulge.
The F-117 was developed in great secrecy in the 1970s. It entered service in 1983 but was not revealed officially until 1988. It saw its first combat in the 1989 invasion of Panama and was a star of the 1991 Gulf War.
"Long before the 1999 war, I took keen interest in the stealth fighter and on how it could be detected," said Dani, who has been hailed in Serbia as a war hero. "And I concluded that there are no invisible aircraft, but only less visible."
The F-117 was one of only two allied aircraft shot down in the war. The other was an F-16 fighter, which the U.S. Air Force said was also hit by an SA-3. Both pilots bailed out and were rescued by NATO helicopters.
Dani said his anti-aircraft missile regiment, tasked with the anti-aircraft defense of the Serbian capital, Belgrade, downed the F-16.
Several other NATO warplanes were damaged by missile hits but managed to struggle back to bases in neighboring Bosnia, Macedonia or Croatia. At least one is said to have ditched into the Adriatic Sea as it attempted to regain its base in Italy.
Despite NATO's near-total air supremacy, the alliance never succeeded in knocking out Dani's batteries.
The Serb SAMs remained a potent threat throughout the conflict, forcing attacking warplanes to altitudes above 15,000 feet, where they were safe from surface-to-air missiles but far less effective in a ground attack role.
NATO won the war in June 1999, after President Slobodan Milosevic decided to withdraw his largely intact army from Kosovo, following the destruction of numerous government buildings, bridges and other infrastructure targets throughout Serbia.
"The Americans entered the war a bit overconfident," Dani said. "They thought they could crush us without real resistance."
"At times, they acted like amateurs," Dani said, listing some ways the Serbs managed to breach NATO communications security, including eavesdropping on pilots' conversations with AWACS surveillance planes.
"I personally listened to their pilots' conversations, learning about their routes and bombing plans," Dani said.
Dani said that his unit has had annual reunions on every March 27 since 1999 when a cake in the shape of the F-117 is served.