Ste alth plane shot down in Yugoslavia: history facts

History 2023

Table of contents:

Ste alth plane shot down in Yugoslavia: history facts
Ste alth plane shot down in Yugoslavia: history facts

In March 1999, on the third day of NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, the US Air Force received a slap in the face: Yugoslav air defenses shot down a Lockheed F-117 Nighththawk ste alth fighter. In the 26 years of service from 1983 to retirement in 2008, no other F-117 was lost in combat with the enemy.

Armament of the parties: NATO Air Force and Air Defense of Yugoslavia

From the very beginning, NATO's air force has been completely superior. The Yugoslav air defense forces were undaunted in trying to protect the country's airspace with surface-to-air missiles. But the general situation was such that it was not air defense crews that hunted for enemy aircraft, but NATO aircraft, using radar reconnaissance, destroyed the country's air defense.

At the forefront of the NATO strikes were the F-117 Nighththawks with their high-tech ste alth technology. Many of the pilots were Gulf War veterans.

The Yugoslav army was armed with Sovietthird-generation anti-aircraft missile systems developed in the 60s and 70s. Until March 27, 1999, it was believed that they were not capable of detecting and attacking F-117As.

MANPADS in the museum

Ste alth Technology

Ironically, the aerodynamically strange shape of the ste alth plane shot down in Yugoslavia was based on the research of the Soviet scientist Pyotr Yakovlevich Ufimtsev on the diffraction of radio waves. In simpler terms, how to characterize the reflective properties of any arbitrary shape. At home, his works did not find practical application, and in the West they immediately saw the potential for improving weapons.

The F-117 ste alth aircraft is made using the faceted ste alth technique. The fuselage of the aircraft and the bearing planes are shaped in a way reminiscent of a diamond cut. There are no vertical and curved planes in the plane. The greater the number of surfaces located at different angles, the less visible the aircraft on the radar screen.

downed ste alth

Additional anti-location protection

The ste alth shot down in Yugoslavia was coated with a special ferrite-based paint that absorbs radar radio waves. This coating requires careful maintenance, even small scratches significantly impair the ste alth characteristics of the aircraft.

The design provides for a cooling circuit for the air from the engines to reduce radiation in the infrared range. All weapons are located inside the aircraft, there are no external pylons and hangers.

Any distortion of the aircraft shape, even condensationwater or ice build up on the surface, opening the bomb bay doors violates the ste alth of the Nighthawk.

But the biggest downside of a hyped ste alth plane is that a shape that works for one set of radio frequencies won't necessarily work for another.

Colonel Zoltan Dani

The commander of the Yugoslav missile battery was a determined, intelligent and technically competent missile officer. Even before the start of the NATO operation in Yugoslavia under the Jesuit name "Merciful Angel", Zoltan studied everything he could find about ste alth technology and realized that the F-117 ste alth aircraft was not really invisible to radar. It was just very hard to find.

Zoltan Dani 2003

Ste alth is not the same as invisibility. And Zoltan Dani began to look for a solution to the problem. Professional interest, nothing personal.

Ste alth detected

The savvy officer realized that the modern aircraft was designed taking into account the capabilities of the short-meter radars adopted by the Warsaw Pact air defense forces in the eighties. And when the Night Hawks began to fly in the skies over Yugoslavia and his native Serbia, he reconfigured the radar system of his S-125 Neva anti-aircraft missile system to use meter-range radio waves. A few days later, the officer received confirmation of his guesses. He was right.

According to Zoltan, when they managed to point the radar at the target, the image was anemic-infantile, and not clear andsharp, but quite suitable for identifying an object and tracking a target. Zoltan knew that a poor quality radio signal would reduce the accuracy of the missile's homing system, and applied warhead fuses adapted to account for this shortcoming.

Preparing to hunt the Nighthawk

Realizing that ste alth is not an absolute technological miracle that cannot be destroyed in principle was only half the battle. As an experienced military man, Zoltan Dani used every means available to increase the chances of success in a duel with a ste alth aircraft.

By order of the crew commander, the radar turned on for a short time, literally tens of seconds. After each inclusion, the anti-aircraft missile system immediately moved to a new position. This did not allow NATO intelligence to calculate their coordinates and destroy the battery. In the absence of data on the location of the NATO complex, it also lost the ability to warn the pilot of danger or adjust the flight route.

Invisible Ste alth

Zoltan skillfully used shortcomings in the organization of sorties by the NATO command. Confident in the flight and "ste alth" characteristics of the F-117 ste alth fighter shot down in Yugoslavia, the US military ignored all other precautions when organizing flights. Throughout the first days of the war, the flight route and attack patterns of the Nighthawks remained unchanged.

For rocket scientists, this has become one of the components of a successful attack. Range and accuracy of detectionthe targets of the radars retuned to the meter range were insufficient. The available information about the flight route of the Nighthawk allowed the commander to choose the optimal position for the anti-aircraft missile system before the attack.

The third component of success was the network of whistleblowers. Zoltan used his men in Italy, who informed him about the time of departure and the types of aircraft leaving for the mission from the NATO air base. Serbs from the border areas informed him about the time of the border crossing by enemy planes. Possessing such information, the calculation of the air defense system of the complex could turn on the radar at the most suitable time and quickly detect the target.

Target hit

Ste alth and bombs

The crew of the S-125 "Neva" anti-aircraft missile system was able to successfully track and aim at the plane taking off on the night of March 27th. At the helm of the Nighthawk was Operation Desert Storm veteran Dale Zelko. He ignored the radar signals coming from the Nighthawk's ACS. As was sure that no signal could return to the observer, he felt completely invisible and invincible.

The plane was hit by two missiles. Launched from a distance of only 13 kilometers, they left the low-maneuverable ultra-modern Nighthawk no chance of survival.

The pilot of a ste alth shot down in Yugoslavia managed to eject. Dale Zelko was found hours later by NATO air force search and rescue helicopters and evacuated fromSerbia.

Pentagon reaction

After the event

The NATO military establishment was shocked. Shot down ste alth over Yugoslavia? How? Antediluvian Soviet rocket? Nobody could believe it.

In computer games with the invention of the latest weapons, the old immediately fails and becomes useless. In the real world, weapons designed in the 1960s are capable of hitting the latest models.

On March 28, the Pentagon officially confirmed the loss of the F-117 aircraft in Yugoslavia without explanation.

The wreckage of the ste alth aircraft shot down in Yugoslavia and the S-125 Neva air defense system are stored in the Military Museum in Belgrade.

Popular topic