PRISTINA - The NATO-led mission in Kosovo consists of 3,500 Soldiers from 27 Nations, who contribute on a daily basis to a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement throughout Kosovo.
A landlocked area of 11,000 square kilometers, Kosovo is located in the heart of the Balkans and displays a variety of landscapes.
From large urban centers like Pristina, Mitrovica, Pec and Prizren - to the green western valleys and the snowy peaks of the Sharr Mountains, at the border with North Macedonia, not to mention impressive lands, lakes and rivers. Kosovo offers dramatic changes of topography within a relatively small geographic area.
Distances appear even shorter when covered by KFOR helicopters conducting training and reconnaissance flights over the whole area of operations. The NATO force relies on several rotary wing components, including aircrafts and crews provided by the USA, Switzerland and Croatia. The latter is KFOR's reserve heli squadron and is ready to intervene at short notice wherever needed.
Lieutenant Colonel Stjepen Stepic of the Hrvatsko ratno zrakoplovstvo (Croatian Air Force) leads a squadron of Mi 8 MTV1 aircrafts, whose main task is to transport KFOR Tactical Reserve troops, and is continuously training with all operational units of the NATO mission in Kosovo. "We need to be familiar with all KFOR area of operations and we conduct training flights in which we fly over several important spots of Kosovo, whose terrain is really impressive and, I must say, very beautiful", explains Stepic.
The Croatian Mi 8 are very robust and reliable machines travelling at 200 km/h and able to reach several thousand metres altitudes (instruments on board actually display speeds and heights in kilometres per hour and metres, according to the Russian fashion), and within two hours allow a wide tour of Kosovo from above.