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The Bosnian War was an international armed conflict that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1 April 1992 and 14 December 1995. After popular pressure, The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) had decided to intervene in the Bosnian War after allegations of war crimes against civilians were made by various media organizations. In response to the refugee and humanitarian crisis in Bosnia, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 743 in 21 February 1992, creating the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR). The UNPROFOR mandate was to keep the population alive and deliver humanitarian aid to refugees in Bosnia until the war ended.

On 9 October 1992, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 781, prohibiting unauthorized military flights in Bosnian airspace. This resolution led to Operation Sky Monitor, where NATO monitored violations of the no-fly zone, but it did not take action against violators of the resolution. On 31 March 1993, in response to 500 documented violations, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 816 which authorized states to use measures "to ensure compliance" with the no-fly zone over Bosnia. In response, on 12 April 1993, NATO initiated Operation Deny Flight which was tasked with enforcing the no-fly zone and allowed to engage the violators of the no-fly zone. However, Serb forces on the ground continued to attack UN "safe areas" in Bosnia and the UN peacekeepers were unable to fight back as the mandate did not give them authority to do so. In response, on 4 June 1993, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 836 authorized the use of force by UNPROFOR in the protection of specially designated safe zones. On 15 June 1993, Operation Sharp Guard, a naval blockade in the Adriatic Sea by NATO and the Western European Union, began after being approved at a joint session of NATO and the WEU on 8 June.

On 6 February 1994, a day after the first Markale marketplace massacre, UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali formally requested NATO to confirm that air strikes would be carried out immediately. On 9 February 1994, agreeing to the request of the UN, NATO authorized the Commander of Allied Forces Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH), U.S. Admiral Jeremy Boorda, to launch air strikes against artillery and mortar positions in and around Sarajevo that were determined by UNPROFOR to be responsible for attacks against civilian targets. Only Greece failed to support the use of airstrikes, but it did not veto the proposal. The Council also issued an ultimatum at the 9 February meeting to the Bosnian Serbs, in which they demanded that the Serbs remove their heavy weapons around Sarajevo by midnight of 20–21 February or face air strikes. There was some confusion surrounding compliance with the ultimatum, and Hungarian Prime Minister Péter Boross announced that Hungarian air space would be closed to NATO aircraft in the event of airstrikes. On 12 February 1994, Sarajevo enjoyed its first casualty-free day in 22 months (since April 1992).

On 28 February 1994, the scope of NATO involvement in Bosnia increased dramatically. In an incident near Banja Luka, NATO fighters operating under Deny Flight shot down four Bosnian Serb fighters for violating a no-fly zone. This was the first combat operation in the history of NATO and opened the door for a steadily growing NATO role in Bosnia.

On 12 March 1994, the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) made its first request for NATO air support, but close air support was not deployed, however, owing to a number of delays associated with the approval process. On 10 and 11 April 1994, UNPROFOR called in air strikes to protect the Goražde safe area, resulting in the bombing of a Bosnian Serb military command outpost near Goražde by two U.S. F-16 jets. This was the first time in NATO's history it had ever done so. Subsequently, the Bosnian-Serbs took 150 UN personnel hostage on 14 April. On 16 April, a British Sea Harrier was shot down over Goražde by Bosnian Serb forces. Around 29 April, a Danish contingent (Nordbat 2) on peacekeeping duty in Bosnia, as part of UNPROFOR's Nordic battalion located in Tuzla, was ambushed when trying to relieve a Swedish observation post (Tango 2) that was under heavy artillery fire by the Bosnian Serb Šekovići brigade at the village of Kalesija, but the ambush was dispersed when the UN forces retaliated with heavy fire in what would be known as Operation Břllebank.

On 5 August 1994, at the request of UNPROFOR, two U.S. A-10 Thunderbolts located and strafed a Bosnian Serb anti-tank vehicle near Sarajevo after the Serbs tested NATO's resolve by seizing weapons that had been impounded by UN troops and attacking a UN helicopter. Afterwards, the Serbs agreed to return the remaining heavy weapons. On 22 September 1994, NATO aircraft carried out an air strike against a Bosnian Serb tank at the request of UNPROFOR.

On 25 and 26 May 1995, after violations of the exclusion zones and the shelling of safe areas, NATO aircraft carried out air strikes against Bosnian Serb ammunition depots in Pale. Some 370 UN peacekeepers in Bosnia were taken hostage and subsequently used as human shields at potential targets in a successful bid to prevent further air strikes.

On 2 June 1995, two U.S. Air Force F-16 jets were sent on patrol over Bosnia in support of Operation Deny Flight. While on patrol, an F-16 piloted by Captain Scott O'Grady was shot down by a Bosnian Serb SA-6 surface-to-air missile. O'Grady was forced to eject from the aircraft. Six days later, he was rescued by U.S. Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit based on the USS Kearsarge. The event would come to be known as the Mrkonjić Grad incident.

On 11 July 1995, NATO aircraft attacked targets in the Srebrenica area of Bosnia-Herzegovina as identified by and under the control of the United Nations. This was in response to Bosnian Serb forces advancing on the UN-declared Safe Area of Srebrenica. Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladić threatened to kill 50 UN peacekeepers who were seized as hostages and also threatened to shell the Muslim population in Srebrenica if NATO air strikes continued. The UN peacekeepers called off the air strikes and agreed to withdraw from Srebrenica as the Bosnian Serbs promised they would take care of the Muslim population for the peacekeepers to spare their own lives. For two weeks, the forces of General Mladić slaughtered over 8,000 Bosniaks, mainly men and boys, in the Srebrenica massacre in what was the worst massacre in Europe since World War II.
On 25 July, the North Atlantic Council authorized military planning aimed at deterring an attack on the safe area of Goražde, and threatened the use of NATO air power if this safe area was threatened or attacked. On 1 August, the Council took similar decisions aimed at deterring attacks on the safe areas of Sarajevo, Bihać and Tuzla. On 4 August, NATO aircraft conducted air strikes against Croatian Serb air defence radars near Udbina airfield and Knin in Croatia. On 10 August, the Commanders of Allied Forces Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH) and UNPROFOR concluded a memorandum of understanding on the execution of airstrikes.


On 30 August, the Secretary General of NATO announced the start of airstrikes, supported by UNPROFOR rapid reaction force artillery attacks. Although planned and approved by the North Atlantic Council in July 1995, the operation was triggered in direct response to the second wave of Markale massacres on 28 August 1995.

During the campaign, a total of 3515 sorties were flown against 338 individual targets. The aircraft involved in the campaign operated from Aviano Air Base, Italy, and from the U.S. aircraft carriers USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) and USS America (CV-66) in the Adriatic Sea. Sixty-eight percent (68%) of the ordnance used in this campaign were precision-guided munitions. The VRS integrated air defence network, comprising aircraft and surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), presented a high-threat environment to NATO air operations.

The German Luftwaffe saw action for first time since 1945 during Operation Deliberate Force. Six interdictor-strike (IDS) version Tornados, equipped with infrared recce devices and escorted by 8 ECR Tornados, pinpointed Serb targets for NATO's artillery units around Sarajevo. The artillery group was part of a Rapid Reaction Force deployed on Mount Igman to support the task of NATO's aircraft by pounding Serb artillery positions. The Force was commanded by British Lieutenant General Dick Applegate. On 30 August 1995, a French Mirage 2000 was shot down by a Bosnian Serb shoulder-fired SAM near Pale.

On 1 September 1995, NATO and UN demanded the lifting of the Serb's Siege of Sarajevo, removal of heavy weapons from the heavy weapons exclusion zone around Sarajevo, and complete security of other UN safe areas. NATO stopped the air raids and gave an ultimatum to Bosnian Serb leaders. The deadline was set as 4 September.

On 5 September 1995, NATO resumed air attacks on Bosnian Serb positions around Sarajevo and near the Bosnian Serb headquarters at Pale after the Bosnian Serbs failed to comply with UN demands to lift heavy weapons around Sarajevo.

On the night of 10 September 1995, the Ticonderoga class cruiser USS Normandy launched a Tomahawk missile strike from the central Adriatic Sea against a key air defense radio relay tower at Lisina, near Banja Luka, while U.S. Air Force F-15E and U.S. Navy F/A-18 fighter-bombers hit the same targets with about a dozen precision-guided bombs, and F-16 jets attacked with Maverick missiles.

On 14 September 1995, NATO air strikes were suspended to allow the implementation of an agreement with Bosnian Serbs, to include the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the Sarajevo exclusion zone. The initial 72 hour suspension was eventually extended to 114 hours.

Finally on 20 September 1995, General Bernard Janvier (Commander, UNPF) and Admiral Leighton W. Smith, Jr. (CINCSOUTH) agreed that resumption of air strikes of Operation Deliberate Force was not necessary as Bosnian Serbs had complied with the conditions set out by the UN and as a result the operation was terminated.

The air campaign was key to pressure on Milošević’s Yugoslavia to take part in negotiations that resulted in the Dayton Peace Agreement reached in November 1995.

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