Lessons learned: NATO’s Kosovo air campaign 25 years on

In the early hours of March 24, 1999, NATO aircraft began attacking targets across Yugoslavia. Serbian forces withdrew from Kosovo three months later and 700,000 ethnic Albanian refugees returned home. Tim Ripley examines lessons learnt from Operation Allied Force

Twenty-five years ago, NATO unleashed is largest ever air offensive in a bid to secure a Serb withdrawal from Kosovo. After nearly three decades of almost non-stop western air operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere as part of the so-called ‘forever wars’, the Kosovo air campaign is often relegated to a footnote in history. Operation Allied Force, however, was a catalyst for much of the rapid development in air warfare tech that is now considered essential – drones, precision guided munitions and real-time surveillance. Air combat tactics were never the same after Kosovo and its impact is still being felt today.


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