15 years have passed since Belgrade, Novi Sad, Nis, Podgorica and other Serbian cities sounded air-raid sirens, warning the people of Yugoslavia that nearly two dozen Western countries had launched a full-scale military campaign against them. Without a UN Security Council decision, having virtually wiped their legs on international law, NATO ironed peaceful cities during 11 weeks, ruthlessly destroying civilian and military infrastructure. What in the West would later be called “humanitarian intervention” does not really have any relation to humanism — the 78 days of bombing killed three thousand people, among whom two thirds were civilians.
As you know, the result of the NATO aggression was the final collapse of Yugoslavia, as well as the unilateral proclamation of Kosovo's independence under the applause of Washington and most European capitals. At the same time, one can only marvel at the blatant hypocrisy of Western politicians, who today accuse Russia of violating the norms of international law, which, following the results of a national referendum and without practically a single shot, included Crimea. Perhaps in the USA, Great Britain, France, Germany and other countries they have forgotten exactly who, without unnecessary remorse, went to use cluster and graphite bombs, as well as aviation depleted uranium shells against a sovereign Central European state?
Today in the capital of present-day Serbia there is practically nothing about “humanitarian bombings”. The NATO-bombed bridges across the Danube were rebuilt, the television center destroyed with 16 journalists was restored. Even a stand in the Kalemegdan military museum dedicated to NATO aggression does not exceed three square meters.
The “Echo of War” is clearly felt only on Prince Milos Street, where the ruined building of the General Staff is still shocking to Belgrade residents with gaping windows and the view of the spans that crashed upon hitting concrete-breaking bombs. I met with a retired lieutenant colonel 250 of the anti-aircraft missile brigade George Anichic in a cafe near the ruins of the General Staff. The name of the institution - "Flight" - is the subject of our conversation. After all, this man was already on the third day of the war, commanding his air defense unit, won the famous victory in the Yugoslav sky. The missile launched from the Soviet C-125 complex put a fat point on the flight of the widely publicized American stealth bomber F-117 and showed the whole world the determination of a small country to defend its sovereignty. After 15 years after those dramatic events, a Serbian anti-aircraft gunner told RG about the circumstances of Stealth’s destruction in unknown details.
How did the war with NATO start for you personally?
Djordje Anichich: Our command declared martial law on March 23 near 22.00. All officers returned to the location of their units, because we had reliable information about the inevitable NATO attack.
A few hours before the bombing, we moved people and equipment to spare positions in order to avoid losses and not get hit by the first blow. The calculation turned out to be correct - while we were on the march, our main position was hit by cruise missiles, which destroyed warehouses and false targets, which we had specially left. All night 24 March we were on the march and could not act. The next day, the equipment was placed in new positions and transferred to full combat readiness. 25 March at eight o'clock in the evening began to receive air-raid alerts. And on March 26, I ordered to bring logs four to five meters long in order to disguise the command point of the division. The following night, the F-117 was shot down.
How did you manage to destroy the allegedly invisible radar aircraft?
Djordje Anichich: Applying a tactical technique, we placed several simulators of radiation of air defense radars and created a trap for NATO aircraft. Subsequently, after analyzing the flight of the "Stealth" we shot down, we found out that that night three such aircraft were moving in the direction of our position. They came from the south and followed the course of our imitation radiation. Their task was to destroy the air defense batteries, as they were the first in the list of priority targets.
It looked like the nights of Belgrade 15 years ago
Until 20 hours of the evening we were preparing a trap. In 20.30, I entered the battalion command post and ten minutes later I saw three targets on the radar screen. At 20.42, on the third attempt to catch the plane in sight, we still shot down Stealth.
A total of two missiles were fired from the Russian C-125M Neva. One of them captured the target and went to the area of its location, and the second rocket failed to capture the target. Subsequently, the shot down American pilot (the aircraft was controlled by Lieutenant Colonel Dale Zeko. - "RG") in his interviews told that one rocket passed him, and the second caught up with him. This is not true since he was hit by the first rocket. Unfortunately, this episode was the subject of various speculations, and the Serbian and international public was misled.
Why did this happen?
Djordje Anichich: At the time of the destruction of "Stealth" at the command post were two leaders. I was there starting from 20.30, and to me - from 18.00 to 20.00 - there was another person on duty.
After the war, another officer on duty (the officer’s name was Zoltan Dani. - “RG”) began to claim that he had upgraded the C-125 complex. In the United States, a documentary was even filmed stating that Stealth was shot down precisely because of this modernization. Thus, they tried to justify themselves that, they say, they did everything right, but some craftsman modified the system and only for this reason the most modern aircraft at that time was shot down.
All this is not true, and there was no modernization. In the end, he had to give up his statements. But even this did not prevent him from subsequently meeting the downed American pilot and calling in front of the camera the person who killed the Serbian people as a "brother."
NATO daily attacked command posts and air defense installations of the Yugoslav army. How did you manage to survive?
Djordje AnichichA: Indeed, in my anti-missile brigade, the enemy launched 35 anti-radar missiles, but did not achieve a single direct hit. The fact is that the American HARM missiles in 1999 had a range of 50-60 kilometers and it was with this weapons NATO tried to destroy the Yugoslav air defense forces. And our C-125 systems could fire at distances up to 20 kilometers. As a result, we acted as follows: we waited for the enemy to come to us for 15 kilometers and only then turned on our systems. Then we fired missiles, sent them to the target area, and after they detonated, they turned off the main radar and simultaneously turned on the simulator installed in 300 meters from our positions. If the enemy managed to launch his missiles at us, then they fell into the radar simulator. At that time, it was a system solution in anti-aircraft combat.
Djordje Anichich: During the entire time of the NATO bombings, I kept a war diary. After 10 years after the NATO bombing of this diary, I wrote a book that I called “Change”. It described the war from the point of view of the anti-aircraft officer and the man who is at the air defense command center, observing the attacks of the enemy from all directions. In total, during the war, I launched anti-aircraft missiles at the enemy 14.
The events described in my book have shown that even with outdated Russian weapons, we were able to destroy Stealth and other newest American aircraft. The official document issued to me by the Yugoslav army states that the personal account of my division includes the destroyed F-117 and F-16, as well as the damaged B-2.
According to the official data of our general staff, 61 was hit on various enemy aircraft, but only 2 of them fell on the territory of our country. It should be borne in mind that the territory of Serbia is very narrow, and NATO aircraft flew at high altitudes. When they hit, many had time to leave our airspace and sit on airfields in neighboring countries.
My greatest success as an officer was not only the “invisible” F-117, we also destroyed the American strategic bomber B-2 “Spirit”. Unfortunately, I have no material confirmation of this fact, but the Americans did not recognize this loss. But we know for sure that this happened on the night of 19 on May 20, and the plane fell in a forest in Croatia.
Downed by an old Soviet rocket, the newest American "Stealth" shocked the NATO generals.
We are talking about the most expensive aircraft in the world at the cost of two billion dollars. Is it possible to hide the loss of such a combat vehicle?
Djordje Anichich: Judge for yourself: after 21 in May, NATO stopped all flights of B-2 aircraft. Why was this done, because the war continued until June 10? At the same time, the intensity of the raids increased by 30 percent. Why did this happen if nothing much happened?
In addition, there are eyewitness accounts that NATO troops moved from Bosnia to Croatia and blocked a vast area. Then the trucks for a long time something was taken out of it.
Even in satellite images, part of the Croatian forest in the area of the alleged fall of B-2 was subsequently darkened.
Besides, I know that a radio interception was made of the conversation of the pilot of the wounded aircraft with the NATO air command center Avaks. The pilots were forbidden to eject from the wrecked aircraft and were ordered to go out of Yugoslavia at all costs.
It is absolutely certain that US strategic aviation used all its new weapons in Yugoslavia, including JDAM bombs. The B-2 bombers flew out of America from the Whiteman base for a combat mission. With one in-flight refueling, such an aircraft flew 18 thousands of kilometers, and each such operation lasted 29-36 hours. It was these planes that dropped the bomb on the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade and the building of the General Staff.
Were there any chances for a successful outcome of the war after three months of continuous NATO raids?
Djordje Anichich: This is a difficult question, because many of our units suffered losses. My unit was the only one in the Belgrade air defense, which operated for all 78 days. The problem was not in the missiles - we had them. The main problem was the Belgrade defense ring, which was broken through. My unit covered the direction in the north, but other sectors were bare. Thus, our object - a big city - could no longer be reliably protected. NATO probably did not know this, and therefore the enemy until the end of the war behaved very carefully, as on the first day of the raids. NATO members were especially careful in the northern direction, and this is far from accident - it was here that three of their other aircraft were shot down and shot down.
Is it true that after the end of the war the Americans wanted by all means to collect the wreckage of the Stealth you shot down?
Djordje AnichichA: Indeed, they tried to do it, but they were not given them. In addition, and this is not widely known, after the war, the Americans sent us a list of questions to our military. He was asked in detail about the circumstances of the destruction of the Stealth - at what distance we noticed him, whether we saw on the radars his refueling in the air, from what distance we opened fire on him and so on. Also in this list were questions about B-2, which also confirms the fact of its destruction.
If we had C-300, then there would be no war.
C-125 was the most modern Yugoslav air defense system at the time?
Djordje Anichich: Yes. However, the system itself by that time was already very outdated, since it was put into service in the USSR in the 1960s.
Many military experts say that if the modern weapons were at the disposal of the Yugoslav army, the outcome of the war could have been completely different ...
Djordje AnichichA: Of course, the type of weapon, as well as the training of personnel, play a huge role, and these factors can stop any aggressor.
I am sure that if we had C-300 systems, there would be no war at all. In the spring of 1999, our Armed Forces tried to get the C-300 in Russia. From May until the end of the war, we sent our junior officers to Russia. True, they were trained not on C-300 complexes, but on Buk systems.
The Chinese Embassy in the capital of Yugoslavia was bombed "by mistake"
However, NATO did not expect Serbian officers to be so well trained. The enemy thought he would run into officers who he had previously met in Iraq and Libya. I had to meet with them, and I must say that they were far from fully mastering all the capabilities of the Russian air defense systems.
Have you been trained to work on air defense systems in the Soviet Union?
Djordje Anichich: I studied in Yugoslavia, but many times I went to practice shooting at the Astrakhan training ground Ashuluk.
NATO actively used Tomahawk cruise missiles. It is known that Serbian air defenses shot down a considerable number of these missiles ...
Djordje Anichich: We have destroyed dozens of such missiles. "Tomahawks" all the time fly at low altitude and use the system of enveloping the terrain. Before the war, we played out possible variants of an attack on us and predicted possible ways of the Tomahawks approach. And we assumed that they would fly along roads or river valleys that would serve as landmarks for them. It was here that effective air defense was organized with the help of Strela-2M complexes.
I know that the Serbian air force also tried to resist a superior enemy. Why did the Serbian fighters failed to shoot down a single NATO plane?
Djordje Anichich: The main problem of our "MiGs" was a small radius of their radar. American F-16 could see targets at a distance of 50 kilometers. Probably, the new Russian “MiGs” now have equivalent opportunities. But then our old planes could not confront NATO on an equal footing and could not get close to the enemy at a rocket launch, as they were noticed much earlier. In fact, I personally watched on the radar screen the last flight of one of our fighters before it was shot down.
What Russia and the United States taught the war in Yugoslavia
As far as I know, after the war, the Serbian authorities fired into the reserve many of the officers participating in the reflections of NATO raids. Is this really true?
Djordje Anichich: This is true, but in order to understand this, you first need to learn the mentality of the Serbs. The fact is that the Serbs forgive others for success. Before the war, I was a great officer. During the war, I had the most combat hours spent on the site of the head of the air defense division, simply because my unit fought all the 78 days. I was awarded the President of our country with military awards. But after the war I was humiliated as a man and an officer, because I was appointed to the position provided for a lower military rank. I was a lieutenant colonel, and they put me in the position of captain of the 1 class, or major. It was painful to realize, and I could hardly wait for the end of life.
I know that in Russia they respect their heroes and the Russians have a special day - February 23, dedicated to war veterans and defenders of the Fatherland. There is no such day in Serbia, so I am still very disappointed.
Did Russian officers meet with you and did you share your experience with them?
Djordje Anichich: Russian generals came out to us right after Stealth was shot down. In addition, during the war, Russian officers were in our units, whose tasks included the collection of various information. One of these officers, Victor, was assigned to my battery, and he was delighted with how we fought.
It must be said that in Russia, in a different way, they imagined a war in the air and proceeded from the presence of different air defense systems with different heights and ranges covering each other from the enemy who crosses the front line. We have the enemy appeared from all sides - from the Adriatic and Mediterranean seas, as well as from the territory of Bosnia, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria.
That war has taught Russia and the USA a lot. The Americans realized that if we with our outdated Soviet weapons could inflict such losses on them, then what would the Russians, who have the latest weapon systems, do to them? In Moscow, they realized all the shortcomings of the Russian air defense systems that had been discovered and took this into account when developing new anti-aircraft systems.