Banja Luka incident
|Banja Luka incident|
|Part of the Bosnian War and Operation Deny Flight|
|6 J-21 Jastrebs
2 J-22 Oraos
|Casualties and losses|
|5 aircraft downed, but only 4 recognized by AFSOUTH, NATO & USAF
3 pilots KIA
The Banja Luka incident on 28 February 1994, was an incident in which six Republika Srpska Air Force J-21 Jastreb single-seat light attack jets were engaged, and four of them shot down, by United States Air Force F-16 fighters southwest of Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was the first active combat in NATO's history.
Bombing of Novi Travnik
As part of Operation Deny Flight, a NATO Airborne Early Warning aircraft flying over Hungarian territory, detected unidentified contacts south of Banja Luka at 6:35 a.m. Two NATO U.S. Air Force F-16s, Black 03 and Black 04, of the 526th Fighter Squadron "Black Knights", 86th Fighter Wing based, at the time, at Ramstein AB, Germany, were vectored to the area and intercepted six J-21 Jastreb and two J-22 Orao aircraft which were bombing the "Bratstvo" military factory at Novi Travnik.
In accordance with the UN and NATO rules of engagement, orders to "land or exit the no-fly zone or be engaged" were issued twice, but both warnings were ignored. While warnings were issued, the violating aircraft dropped bombs over their target, which was left in flames. In such circumstances NATO has a "single key", meaning that only one clearance was needed, so the Combined Air Operations Center was immediately able to clear the F-16s to attack.
The Bosnian Serb Jastrebs headed northwards, back to their base. At 6:45 a.m., the NATO fighters engaged their opponents. Captain Robert G. Wright fired an AIM-120 AMRAAM, downing the first Jastreb which was flying at 5,000 feet. The remaining Jastrebs dropped to a few hundred feet, flying at low level to use the mountainous terrain to hide from radar and make their escape back to Udbina. Wright pressed on, closing to within AIM-9 Sidewinder range. He fired two of his heat-seeking Sidewinder missiles, and they were seen to hit the Serb aircraft.
After he had expended all his missiles and low on fuel, Wright handed over the chase to his wingman, Capt. Scott O'Grady, who had been flying 'top cover' above his flight leader.
O'Grady dropped down to engage and fired an AIM-9M, the missile was locked on but a hit could not be confirmed. Black flight was now approaching "bingo fuel", the point at which a plane will not have enough fuel to return, so they pulled off to refuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker circling in orbit over the Adriatic. At the same time another pair of 526th Fighter Squadron F-16Cs, "Knight 25" and "Knight 26", had been vectored to the area by the AWACS. At 6:50 a.m., "Knight 25" managed to get in behind the remaining three Jastrebs. He launched a Sidewinder, downing another J-21 Jastreb.
By now the Serbs were close to the international border and the F-16s had to break off the pursuit because NATO was not empowered to engage aircraft outside Bosnian airspace. The remaining aircraft were able to land at Udbina Air Base in the Republic of Serbian Krajina in present-day Croatia.
The USAF credited three kills to Captain Robert Gordon "Wilbur" Wright, flying F-16C-40 #89-2137/RS, using an AIM-120 AMRAAM and two AIM-9 Sidewinders; and one kill using an AIM-9 Sidewinder to Captain Stephen L. "Yogi" Allen flying F-16C-40 #89-2009/RS of the same unit. The Serbs acknowledged the loss of five aircraft in the incident; the discrepancy probably stems from the fact that an additional aircraft crashed after being hit by a missile explosion while trying to escape in low-level flight.
This engagement was the first wartime action conducted by NATO forces since its formation in 1949.
Bosnian Serb pilots
The Bosnian Serb pilots involved in the incident were:
- Capt. 1st Class Ranko VukmirovićKIA.
- Capt. 1st Class Zvezdan Pešić KIA.
- Capt. 1st Class Goran Zarić ejected at low altitude, KIA.
- Maj. Uroš Studen ejected near Jajce, survived.
- Capt. 1st Class Zlatko Mikerević ejected probably near the villages of Bravsko and Crkveno, 9 miles west of Ključ, survived.
- Capt. 1st Class Zlatan Crnalić landed at Udbina Airport with his J-21 Jastreb Sr.nr. 24275 badly damaged; the aircraft later re-entered service.
- Serbian officially admitted 5 Aircraft lost
- "Hronika Republike Srpske Krajine www.krajinaforce.com". krajinaforce.com.
- "USAF F-16s shoot down 4 Serb attack aircraft – F-16 News". f-16.net.
- AFSOUTH Fact sheets
- Call sign of the aircraft
- Tucker, Spencer (2012). Almanac of American Military History, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 2180. ISBN 1-59884-530-6.
- Call sign of the aircraft
- Capt. Robert G. Wright nickname (someteimes AKA Capt. Bob G. Wright)
- "Airframe Details for F-16 #89-2137". f-16.net.
- Capt. Stephen L. Allen nickname (sometimes AKA Capt. Steve L. Allen)
- "Airframe Details for F-16 #89-2009". f-16.net.
- See the aircraft's tail picture on Bushev F-16 u praksi
- Lista gubitaka/ostecenja vazduhoplova u Ex-JRV od 1945 godine do danas
- Philip Handleman, Combat in the Sky: The Art of Air Warfare, Zenith Press 2003. ISBN 978-0-7603-1468-5.