Details of the attack of Yugoslav aircraft on Tuzla airport in Bosnia-Herzegovina on April 18, 1999
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Details of this attack are available in Serbian language here.
The Tuzla airport in Bosnia-Herzegovina (map) is used by NATO aircraft for emergency landings, as well as by NATO special rescue helicopters. The airport was also used by NATO SFOR troops for operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
One G-4 Super Galeb strike aircraft, piloted by Major Stevan Zivojin Gavrilovic, who led the attack.
Six J-22 Orao strike aircraft, one of them piloted by Lt. Colonel Mihaljo V., who organized the attack, was shot down by a NATO SAM.
Two MiG-21 fighters, one of them, piloted by Major Zeljko M., was hit by a SAM and made an emergency landed 10km from Ponikve airbase.
On April 18, 1999 at 13:30 local time a strike force of nine Yugoslavian aircraft, consisting of one G-4 Super Galeb strike aircraft, six J-22 Orao strike aircraft, and two MiG-21 fighters, conducted a bombing run against the Tuzla airport. The attack was organized unofficially on the initiative of the Yugoslavian pilots involved. The strike was led by Major Stevan Zivojin Gavrilovic of the Yugoslavian Air Force, flying a G-4 Super Galeb and organized by Lt. Colonel Mihaljo V. from Kragujevac, flying one of the Oraos. The strike was initiated from the Ponikve airbase near the town of Uzice (map), approximately 120km away from Tuzla. The group of Yugoslav aircraft followed a route along the border between Yugoslavia and Bosnia-Herzegovina at an altitude of 800m and crossed the border somewhere between the towns of Bratunac and Zvornik.
Several minutes before the attack the Ponikve base informed the strike group that they were spotted by NATO forces and the strike group was advised to discontinue its operation. The suggestion was disregarded and the strike group proceeded with the planned attack. The Yugoslavian aircraft did not encounter any air or ground opposition during their approach to the Tuzla airport. The main radar at the Tuzla airport was not operational due to a technical malfunction (or, according to other sources, due to a diversion). It was known that beside a several damaged NATO aircraft and rescue helicopters, a group of additional 10 NATO aircraft arrived to the Tuzla airport for operations against Yugoslavia, which prompted the improvised strike by Yugoslavian planes.
A group of four NATO aircraft were detected at the far end of the Tuzla airport, preparing for takeoff. The lead G-4 released its bombs at the group of several damaged NATO planes positioned at the right side of the runway and immediately turned his aircraft back toward the border. Three Oraos did the same, while the three remaining Oraos conducted a precision strike. The two MiG-21s were to provide the strike group with air cover during the withdrawal, in case any of the NATO planes managed to take off.
The Orao piloted by Lt. Colonel Mihaljo V. was targeted and destroyed by a NATO SAM. One of the MiG-21s, piloted by Major Zeljko M. from Novi Sad, was hit by a SAM as well, but the pilot managed to land the aircraft 10km from Ponikve airbase. NATO lost 17 aircraft and three rescue helicopters on the ground. However, it is not known how many of those 17 aircraft were operational prior to the strike (as was mentioned earlier, NATO aircraft used the Tuzla airport for emergency landings.)
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April 30, 1999
P.S. This information comes from private sources, details about which I cannot reveal. You have a choice of either taking this information seriously or disregarding it completely. It is totally up to you. I just want to stress that this information wouldn't have made it on my web site if I did not think that it was acurate.
NEW: Several people, who have either friends or relatives living in Tuzla, have e-mailed me saying that a series of loud explosions were heard coming from the Tuzla airport at the reported time of the attack.