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Yugoslavia Shows NATO Plane Parts

March 18, 2000

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ The battered black wing of a NATO F-117A stealth fighter vies for space with a brightly polished Tomahawk missile. A high-tech trade fair? Not quite.

This unique collection of war memorabilia is the prized exhibit in the Yugoslav army’s airspace museum. On Friday, the museum director unveiled several new pieces to mark the March 24 anniversary of NATO’s air bombardment of this Balkan nation.

Among the new pieces were the very first Tomahawk missile shot down by the Yugoslav air defense the day the campaign began, and a highly sophisticated AGM 154, which when dropped from an aircraft releases cluster bombs.

The 1,500 NATO artifacts collected or donated from across the country take up half the ground floor of the three-story domed building.

Museum Director Cedomir Janjic said more pieces were being polished and prepared for the exhibit _ in a new wing to be dedicated to the airstrikes.

``It is truly amazing how many aircraft and drones were downed with the relatively modest and primitive equipment″ of the Yugoslav army, Minister for Science and Development Cedomir Mirkovic said Friday.

NATO launched the 78-day airstrike campaign to halt President Slobodan Milosevic’s crackdown against Kosovo Albanians.

Among the museum’s prize possessions are the wreckage of the U.S. Air Force F-117 stealth fighter shot down near Belgrade three days into the campaign.

Guarded under protective glass are the plane’s fuselage _ its left side painted with a U.S. star _ part of the main landing gear, the ejection seat, the rear of the cockpit and an electro-optical navigation assembly with units that find and identify targets. Clearly marked tags and accompanying photos identified the pieces and explained how Yugoslav forces shot it down.

The downing of the F-117A was the first known loss of a stealth aircraft in combat. The pilot ejected and was later rescued by U.S. troops.

Next to the stealth lay the remains of an F-16 fighter like a giant bird’s wing. It was hit by an SA-3 surface-to-air missile. Its tailpiece, chipped and charred around the edges, still brandished a huge white painted Night Hawk.

Mirkovic refuted Western claims that Yugoslav air defense downed only the two planes.

``We shall prove we have more,″ he said, without elaborating. During the bombing, the then-chief of the Yugoslav army, Gen. Dragoljub Ojdanic, claimed 61 NATO aircraft had been downed.

A few feet away, a Predator drone hung suspended from the ceiling like a large model plane. It was one of seven pilotless NATO drones on display. Six more had yet to be recovered from unexplored sites, Janjic said.

In total, Mirkovic said, the Yugoslavs downed more than 230 Tomahawks.

The Yugoslav air force assets were seriously crippled during the bombing campaign, including its MiG-29 fighters. NATO claimed up to a dozen _ half of the air force.

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