16 - Operation Allied Force
The international community conducted the Rambouillet peace talks in France, trying to mediate a peaceful solution to the crisis. Meanwhile, the Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) was authorised to deploy to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (2) in anticipation of a cease fire agreement. Eventually, some of the NATO nations also began to deploy units which were earmarked to participate in peace support operations.
After all efforts to achieve a negotiated, political solution to the Kosovo crisis failed, no alternative was open but to take military action. NATO's Secretary General directed the Supreme Allied Commander Europe to initiate air operations in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Air operations commenced on 24 March 1999 under the name "Operation Allied Force". That obviously implied the termination of Operation Eagle Eye.
Operation Allied Force was the first high intensity air campaign conducted by NATO. A formidable force of NATO aircraft, which reached a peak of over 900, coming from 14 nations and operating from over 40 different locations, flew over 38,000 sorties.
These sorties were flown into a very robust integrated air defence system (which launched over 600 surface-to-air missiles), often in poor visibility. Maritime forces also contributed to the air campaign with naval aviation assets, cruise missiles and a variety of support missions. NATO exercised scrupulous care to avoid harm to the civilian population while avoiding putting its own pilots at unnecessary risk. As a result, "Allied Force" was the most precisely executed military operation in history. Civilian casualties were kept to an absolute minimum while NATO lost no pilots. In two occasions NATO aircraft were lost while flying over Yugoslavia and in both cases the crew were recovered safely, thanks to successful Combat Search and Rescue missions.
On 9 June 1999, while the air campaign was in its 78th day, NATO and Yugoslav military authorities signed a Military Technical Agreement (MTA). The agreement specified the modalities and procedures for the full withdrawal of Yugoslav Security Forces from Kosovo. On 10 June 1999, NATO's Secretary Gen., having received reports indicating that the withdrawal of the Yugoslav security forces was in progress, directed air operations to be suspended.