Operation Deliberate Force

29 August, 1995 - 21 September 1995

Although initiated in response to the Bosnian Serb Army (BSA) shelling of the Sarajevo market place on August 28, 1995, Operation Deliberate Force was the culmination of events and related planning over a long period.

The warring factions disregard for UN mandates regarding Safe Areas and heavy weapons exclusion zones (EZs), targeting of NATO and UN aircraft and ground forces, and increased factional fighting during the Fall and Winter of 1994, dictated prudent military contingency planning.

Key Events

There were a number of key events which eventually lead to the decision for operation Deliberate Force.

  • September 1994 - Ministers of Defense met informally in Seville to discuss proposals for more timely and effective use of NATO airpower.
  • October 1994 - Several meetings of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) and meetings between NATO and UN representatives took place resulting in agreement on revised standards for the application of NATO airpower.
  • November 1994 - NATO airstrike on Udbina airfield in Krajina Serb-held Croatia in response to attacks by fighters from that airfield on the Bihac Safe Area.
  • November 1994 - NATO airstrikes on surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites in Northwest B-H in response to attacks from those sites on NATO aircraft.
  • November-December 1994 - North Atlantic Council decisions expanding authorization to respond to the air defense threat to NATO aircraft.

As a result of these events, two plans were formulated.

Operation Dead Eye

Operation Dead Eye, an air protection plan to disrupt the integrated air defense system (IADS) in Bosnia and thus reduce the risk to NATO aircraft flying in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Dead Eye targets included:

  • Key air defense communications nodes
  • Air defense command and control facilities
  • Early warning radar sites
  • Known surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites
  • SAM support facilities
Deliberate Force

Operation Deliberate Force, an air attack plan to reduce military capability to threaten or attack safe areas and UN forces. Deliberate Force targets included:

  • Fielded forces/heavy weapons
  • Command and control facilities
  • Direct and essential military support facilities
  • Supporting infrastructure/lines of communication

Deliberate Force targets were approved for planning through the Joint Targeting Board (JTB) process established by NATO and the UN.

The joint validation of targets was being properly considered and appropriately linked to UN/NATO mandated mission objectives.

The Dead-Eye NATO air protection plan targets were also reviewed.

Expiration Of Cease Fire

Detailed planning and refinement continued as events escalated through the Spring and Summer of 1995 following the expiration of the Carter cease-fire (December 1994 - March 1995). Key events:

  • Dual-key NATO air strikes on Pale ammunition storage depot, May 25-26, 1995, in response to:
    • BSA artillery fire into Sarajevo from UN-monitored weapons collection points near Sarajevo.
    • BSA removal of weapons from weapons collection points and continued shelling of the Safe Area.
  • BSA take UN hostages as a response to NATO air strikes.
  • BSA shoot-down a NATO F-16, June 2, 1995.
  • BSA overrun the Srebrenica Safe Area, July 11, 1995.
  • BSA lay siege to the Zepa Safe Area in mid-July (Zepa falls on July 26, 1995).

At the London Conference on July 21, 1995, ministers agreed that "an attack on Gorazde will be met by substantial and decisive airpower".

NAC decisions of 25 July and 1 Aug 95 specified that further Bosnian Serb offensive action must be met with a firm and rapid response with the aim of deterring attacks on Safe Areas and responding, if necessary, through the timely and effective use of airpower...until attacks on or threats to the Safe Areas have ceased

  • Graduated NATO air operation triggered by:
    • Any concentration of forces and/or heavy weapons, and the conduct of other military preparations which, in the common judgement of the NATO and UN military commanders, presents a direct threat to the safe areas, or
    • Direct attacks (e.g. ground, shelling, or aircraft) on the Safe Areas
  • Authorized operations to support the defense of the Safe Areas within a wider zone of action (ZOA) than had previously been considered

Decision For Operation Deliberate Force

Using the latest NAC guidance, NATO air planners:

  • Developed individual air attack plans for the defense of each Safe Area.
  • Further refined the Dead-Eye air protection plan.
  • Integrated individual plans into a comprehensive graduated air strike plan under the name of Operation Deliberate Force.

Operation Deliberate Force was briefed by Admiral Smith and Lt Gen Ryan to NATO Secretary General Willie Claes and General Joulwan (SACEUR) on August 3, 1995.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by Admiral Smith and Lt Gen Janvier, Force Commander UNPF which contained the joint UN/NATO arrangements for implementing the actions specified in the NAC and UN Security Council decisions (August 10, 1995).

Consistent with the MOU, and following coordination with Lt Gen Smith (COMD UNPROFOR), Lt Gen Ryan (COMAIRSOUTH) briefed the concept of operations for Operation Deliberate Force and obtained agreement in principle from CINCSOUTH and FC UNPF for both the operation and associated targets (August 14, 1995).

Additionally, in accordance with the MOU, an Air-Land Coordination Document was developed by COMAIRSOUTH, the NATO air component commander, COMD UNPROFOR in Sarajevo, and Maj Gen David Pennyfather at the Rapid Reaction Force Operational Staff Headquarters in Kiseljak, specifying the necessary operational details of joint/combined operations.

Operation Deliberate Force was triggered by a BSA mortar attack on Sarajevo on August 28, 1995, killing 38 civilians.

A Dual-Key decision was made by CINCSOUTH and FC UNPF to initiate air strikes (August 29, 1995).

Subsequently, COMAIRSOUTH directed COMFIVEATAF, Lt. Gen. Fornasiero, to launch NATO forces with an execution time planned for not earlier than 0200CET on August 30, 1995.