US military uses Yugoslavia as testing ground for high-tech weaponry

                   By Jerry White
                   29 March 1999

                   The US military has welcomed the confrontation with Serbia as an
                   opportunity to test its arsenal of high-tech weaponry and to train American
                   military personnel in a new theater of war.

                   Military commanders were elated the night the bombing began, according
                   to the New York Times. "For some diplomats and officials at NATO
                   headquarters in Brussels, where [Supreme Commander US General
                   Wesley] Clark has made no secret of his judgment that an air campaign
                   against Milosevic was justified long ago, the mood this evening was almost
                   jubilant," the newspaper wrote. "'It's accelerating and exhilarating,' said

                   Each branch of the armed forces is jockeying for the chance to display its
                   weapon systems, regardless of whether any specific military purpose is
                   fulfilled, simply to justify their multibillion-dollar budgets.

                   Since the bombing began US Navy warships and submarines in the
                   Adriatic Sea, and bombers flown from Italy, have launched scores of
                   cruise missiles at Serbian targets. These include a new generation of
                   Tomahawk missiles, which the Pentagon says have "proven effective"
                   during recent raids against Iraq, hitting 80 percent of their targets.

                   Military planners prefer the unmanned missiles--which cost $750,000
                   each--in the initial stages of an attack rather than risking more expensive
                   manned aircraft. The cruise missiles, built by Raytheon Corporation, are
                   launched with the click of a computer mouse from ships floating well out of
                   reach of any enemy threat. Traveling at the speed of sound, the missiles are
                   guided to their targets by 24 global positioning satellites orbiting the earth.

                   Wednesday was also the debut of the US Air Force's most expensive
                   warplane, the B-2 "Spirit" stealth bomber. Two of the $2.2 billion planes
                   flew from air bases in Missouri to Yugoslavia, where they dropped 40,000
                   pounds of bombs each, and then returned nonstop to the US.

                   First introduced in 1988 for long-range nuclear strikes deep into the former
                   Soviet Union, the plane had been plagued by technical problems, including
                   a radar system which had difficulty distinguishing mountain ranges from
                   clouds and radar-absorbent paint that wore off too quickly. The fear of
                   losing the aircraft, two of which cost as much as an aircraft carrier, led the
                   military to pass over the B-2 for combat missions at a time when every
                   other strike aircraft was being deployed in the Persian Gulf.

                   The Air Force had been "champing at the bit" to test its B-2 squadron on
                   real missions since its deployment in 1993, said Chris Hillman, an analyst
                   with the Center for Defense Information in Washington, DC. Although the
                   military has simulated using the B-2s, Hillman said simulations are like
                   video games when compared to real battle. The only true test of the B-2
                   "is to have somebody who really hates us trying to shoot us down," he

                   After the mission General Leroy Barnidge, commander of the B-2 Bomb
                   Wing in Missouri, said, "I got to tell you, the crews in these jets performed
                   magnificently. It says to the critics that this plane did everything it
                   advertised, and then some."

                   The US currently has a fleet of 21 B-2 bombers, which costs $44 billion.
                   The warplane's "success" over the skies of Yugoslavia will surely mean
                   billions more in future procurements for manufacturer Northrop Grumman.

                   Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and other US
                   defense contractors have made no secret of the fact that they see the
                   conflict in Yugoslavia as an opportunity to market their weapons and
                   secure new contracts. On Friday Reuters financial service carried an article
                   entitled, "Conflict lets US weapon makers strut their stuff" which began,
                   "The conflict in Yugoslavia will give US defense firms, especially Raytheon
                   Co., a chance to show off their wares on a global stage, analysts said on

                   Robert Friedman, an analyst for S&P Equity Group, told Reuters, "It really
                   depends on how long this conflict goes. If this becomes a protracted war,
                   and it is heavily dependent on cruise missiles, then that would help
                   Raytheon's short-term bottom-line."

                   Raytheon spokesman Dave Shea concurred, saying, "Certainly, it portends
                   for increased business, but it would be difficult to quantify at this point."
                   Referring to the cruise missiles, smart bombs and other weapons made by
                   the company, Shea added, "Assuming that the weapons work as
                   advertised, we view that as the best advertising."

                   Since the Cold War ended in 1990 sales to foreign governments have
                   represented the greatest growth opportunity for US defense contractors,
                   which have consolidated over the last decade. The companies lobbied
                   hard for the expansion of NATO and US government loans to Eastern and
                   Central European countries to upgrade their militaries with American-made

                   Military planners are also anxious to test out US military forces in a new
                   terrain, and fighting a new enemy, in Yugoslavia. Unlike the flat desert
                   expanse of Iraq, where isolated targets were clearly visible in the
                   springtime, Serbian mobile antiaircraft missiles and artillery are hidden in
                   the mountains, valleys and woods and the weather is typically cloudy.
                   Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said, "We've had a lot of experience
                   against these weapons, but every country and every air defense system
                   presents its own challenges and we take those challenges, very, very

                   The opportunity to test improvements in weapons systems and give pilots
                   and other specialists experience under hostile fire is a significant factor in
                   American foreign policy. In the 25 years since its ignominious withdrawal
                   from Vietnam, the US military has engaged in foreign adventures every few
                   years: Lebanon and Grenada, 1983; Libya, 1985; Panama, 1989; Iraq,
                   1990-91; Somalia, 1992-93; Haiti, 1994; Bosnia, 1996; and now

                   There is, of course, a down side to such training missions--the potential for
                   US losses. The Pentagon has elite squads to rescue pilots in the event that
                   a plane is shot down. The Clinton administration is greatly concerned that
                   any substantial US military casualties could evoke domestic opposition. At
                   the same time, US military commanders know that a "bloodying" of the
                   troops is essential for the type of sustained conflicts that are being planned
                   for the future.

                   The US has greatly exaggerated the Serbian military threat in order to
                   justify the massive forces it has arrayed against the country. But senior
                   Pentagon officials said the Yugoslav airforce consists mainly of old Soviet
                   planes and only 15 newer MiG-29s and is not considered a major threat to
                   US and NATO warplanes. The official gloated, "Our air-to-air pilots
                   would probably love to see them come up to fight."

                   Another element of the attack on Yugoslavia is the desire of military
                   officials to condition the American public to accept massive civilian
                   casualties. US-NATO commanders have warned that targets in Serbia will
                   not be isolated desert outposts, but cities, towns and villages where
                   Serbian troops and Kosovar rebels are fighting.

                   "The American public is used to these instant gratification operations with
                   zero defects," said retired Admiral Thomas J. Lopez, former commander
                   of NATO's southern command. Once the military operations begin against
                   Serbia "they are going to pound the living hell out of it," he said.