Operations in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia & Balkans

Former Republic of Yugoslavia and the Balkans

Operations in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia and the Balkans

UN leadership and General Rose, Bosnia 1994
Sarajevo, post market bombing, 1993

After the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the federation of Yugoslavia began to disintegrate. The mix of several volatile ethnic groups had been controlled since World War II, but after the death of President Tito, tensions began to surface, and Croatia and Slovenia broke away from the federation. The Muslim population of Bosnia-Herzegovina supported a referendum calling for an

independent, multi-national republic, the Serb population refused, leading to a bitter civil war.

Operation CHESHIRE 1993 - 1994

Sarajevo Air lift 1994
UN HQ Kiseljak, 1994
Op Cheshire UN Warrior, Bosnia 1993

RAF Hercules transports began flying food and medicine to the besieged towns and cities in Bosnia, including the capital, Sarajevo in the UN Operation CHESHIRE.
Tactical Communications Wing led in setting up the airfield and communications at Sarajevo airport, nicknamed ‘Maybe Airlines’ due to the infrequency of the flights and supplies.

Tactical Communications Wing also provided the UN with HF Flight Watch and secure Communications Centre facilities throughout one of the longest airlifts in history, from July 1992 to January 1996. Tactical Communications Wing also supported the RAF Air Transportation liaison officers in the UN HQ.

During Operation CHESHIRE, the RAF delivered 26,577 tonnes of supplies in 1,977 sorties. The mission was not without its hazards, and there were over 260 security incidents. A Hercules was hit by ground fire when approaching Sarajevo and an Italian aircraft was shot down in September 1992.










Operation GRAPPLE 1994 - 1995

Op GRAPPLE TAOC Kiseljak, 1994
UN TAOC Bosnia 1994
GRAPPLE 501 Kiseljak
C130 Gunship, Callsign Ghost

The UN Protection Force was assigned to provide securityand aid to the Bosnians. Tactical Communications Wing activated and facilitated a UN led Air Operations ControlCentre in the hotel Dalmacija in the Croatian held town of Kiseljack.
They also operated from Fitted for Radio Land Rovers across Bosnia but after several small arms attacks, fitted two Danish/UN APC vehicles with radio and satellite communications enabling safer operation of the Tactical Air Operations Centre throughout the area of Operations. The multilateral team, supported by Tactical Communications Wing, later took on the training, support and supply of the outlying Tactical Control Parties. They provided cryptographic material and assistance where and whenever required, working closely with 22 Special Air Service Regiment, Joint Communications Officers (JCO).
A crisis was reached when Serbian forces carried out mass genocides. US President Clinton then asked for NATO mass bombing raids on Serbian and Croatian targets. When the UN Secretary-General granted permission, the targets already located were destroyed. The Tactical Air Control Parties and Tactical Air Operations Centre gave guidance, with Tactical Communications Wing providing the communications.  During the operation, Tactical Communications Wing came under sustained fire from small arms and mortar bombardments and gained significant praise from all parties, particularly the Special Air Service. When the Force moved to Sarajevo in 1994, the Tactical Communications Wing detachment was a key element in building and activating the Force HQ, under General Rose. The Tactical Communications Wing detachment handed over to their role to the NATO-led Stabilisation Force following the Dayton peace accord.


NATO, Op Deliberate Guard, 1998

The UK element of Stabilisation Force included Tactical

Communications Wing, with a VSC 501 satellite terminal

providing security and communications for NATO HQ.

The location, in Ploche, Croatia, proved rather inhospitable

for tented accommodation, it was on a refuse site and prone

to flooding with streams of sewage throughout the site.

The detachment monitored and inspected the Bosnian Serb

weapon stores, other Tactical Communications Wing elements

supported the NATO Stabilisation Force air operation using

aircraft based in various countries and aircraft carriers in

the region.


Operation DELIBERATE GUARD ended in June 1998

replaced by Operation DELIBERATE FORGE to support ground

operations and enforce the no-fly zone, ending in 1999.

Operations AGRICOLA and ALLIED FORCE, 1999

Burnt-out Landover at Skopje, Macedonia 1999
RAF Chinooks Land 16 AAB on the outskirts of Pristina, 1999
Pristina Air Terminal, Aug 1999

Serbs had been responsible for several atrocities against Kosovar Albanians, including genocide or ‘ethnic cleansing’. Diplomatic efforts to achieve the withdrawal of Serbian troops from Kosovo collapsed and NATO started a systematic bombing campaign against them and against infrastructure targets in Serbia itself.

These air operations along with intense international pressure compelled Serb withdrawal from Kosovo without a NATO ground assault.


A NATO Protection Force monitored this fragile peace. Tactical Communications Wing had deployed detachments to Thessalonica in Greece and at Skopje in neighbouring Macedonia. When the NATO Forces entered Kosovo in mid June, Tactical Communications Wing flew into the Kosovan capital Pristina, to occupy and set-up the airfield where, surprisingly, Russian troops were already on the ground.


Tactical Communications Wing deployed satellite communications, two nodes of RAF Transportable Telecommunications System, Watchman radar and a full navigational aids suite.


An additional Tactical Communications Wing detachment was in Kosovo, as part of the Italian Brigade. They came under fire on a number of occasions and personnel were all highly commended by the Force commanders. JT ‘Shaz’ Davis received an MBE for his efforts during the deployment.

TCW VSC 501 and ComCen, Pristina AirPoD 1999


RAF Chinooks with 16AAB
Operation ESSENTIAL HARVEST, weapons collection

In January 2001 the Macedonian National Liberation Army (NLA), mainly ethnic Albanians, began to attack Macedonian security forces, ambushing patrols near the Kosovan border. This escalated and by the start of March, the National Liberation Army had taken effective control of much of Northern and Western Macedonia. They failed to take the city of Tetovo in an open attack, but were able to control the hills and mountains between there and Kosovo.

NATO intervened in June 2001 and the Macedonian government agreed to devolve greater political power and cultural recognition to the Albanian minority. The National Liberation Army agreed to give up separatist demands and to hand over their weapons to NATO. In Operation ESSENTIAL HARVEST, 3,500 NATO troops disarmed ethnic Albanian groups and destroyed their weapons in a 30-day mission. The UK’s 16 Air Assault Brigade with a Tactical Communications Wing detachment provided Air Tasking Orders and Intelligence updates via Early Entry Satellite and data systems. Weapons were removed to a central collection point for destruction unless they were unsafe to move when they were destroyed in situ.

RAF Activities and Background

Video: RAF Operations - 'There is Hope'