25th April 1999. Covert mission of Serbian pilots vs NATO aviation at Rinas airport, Tirana, Albania

Posted on May 24, 2013 by



Exactly one month after the beginning of aggression on Yugoslavia (Serbia)  in 1999 NATO officials prepared celebration of their 50th anniversary.  However they have been facing  greater challenge – what to do with the war against Yugoslavia ( Serbia), to intensify bombing at the price of new civilian casualties and damage, (which,  if aired or published could return to the coalition like a boomerang) or to start a ground offensive primarily using KLA (Albanian terrorists) as infantry?

War drums in Washington signalized that anything but total victory would actually be considered a defeat for the West. They were aware that the air strikes didnt’ break the spine of the Yugoslav military, the morale of the army and the people was high and they were united in one desire –  to resist.

Western analysts initially believed that it would take not more than few days of bombing and Belgrade will capitulate, but soon it proved to be wrong.  Yugoslavia (Serbia) did not fail as NATO expected. The speed of the staged scenario was implemented with an amazing counter-effect.  NATO intervened to allegedly prevent humanitarian tragedy, but the true humanitarian disaster actually expanded and accelerated.  NATO ‘preventive’ aggression destabilized other countries, and it has  spread to Macedonia, with uncertain consequences for the status of Kosovo. In the first postmodern war such a confusion would be fun  if it hasn’t been bloody.


Г-4 Супер Галеб – Serbian G-4 Seagull 

On 22. April 1999. Viktor Chernomyrdin, appointed IC negotiator,  arrived to Belgrade  in an attempt to find a compromise  and terminate the war.  On that day the Yugoslav air defense received strict orders not to act because of the Russian negotiator’s flight.  NATO  was aware of all so they took a chance and an American fighter-bomber F-16 flew from the Hungarian border to Belgrade in the radar shadow of Victor Chernomyrdin’s civil aircraft and dropped a nearly three tons bomb on Serbian  underground facility STRAZEVICA.  Stratagem, or a violation of international laws of war?   On their return the Russian pilots were using completely different corridor and the plane suddenly found himself above the Serbian  infantry-artillery unit in Srem.  They opened fire with all they had, including  pistols and rifles.  They didn’t hit.

Just three days later, the pilots at the airport Golubovci near Podgorica drew the maps for a covert mission, without neither permission nor knowledge and approval of Command in Belgrade – they planned to perform an  attack on Rinas airport near Tirana, Albania, where U.S. battle group “Hawk” with 24 helicopters “Apache” and 82. Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, North Carolina was situated. 


J-22 Eagle – fighter bomber

In dawn of 26 April six air crafts Made in Serbia G-4 “Super Galeb” took off,  who were part of the acro-group “Flying Stars”. Since they were flying only ten feet above the waves in order to avoid NATO and Albanian radar control, it took them less than 20 minutes to reach the targets in Albania, near ​​Rinas airport. They came from the direction of the rising sun and have been visually difficult to detect.


Initially rockets and grenades hit the training camp of Albanian terrorists near the Rinas airport, and one  G-4 targeted the U.S. helicopters.  They destroyed nine “Apache” and  three more were badly damaged.

Italian state television only once  reported ( the same day) about the attack on the airport Rinas. That news has been banned from further broadcast.  Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported that the Rinas airport near Tirana was closed for traffic on 26 April and  few days later, the Italian interior minister flew away to the airport after the visit to Tirana.  The first news reported about the loss of an American “Apache” ” on a routine flight”  and it coincides exactly with the 26 April.  Also, the Albanian delegation on the way back from a meeting in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg did not land on Rinas airport but in Vlora.

At a press briefing in Brussels, NATO spokesman, the Italian Air Force Brigadier General Giuseppe Marani these days without  a visible reason spoke with admiration about Serbian pilots. 

The day after the action at Albania, Rinas airport, NATO bombed  three times severely,  airport Golubovci near Podgorica, specifically targeting the underground facility of the airport Tuzi, where they found aircraft  G-4 of the acro-group “Flying Stars”.  The building was demolished and all the planes in it  destroyed. One of the Yugoslav pilots  when he was given  a military medal, said he receives it for a successful accomplishment in a secret mission.

It’s been many years since then, and under international law Serbia had every right to retaliate on those states that have their own territory and  airspace  “rented” for the aggression against our country.   However, the pilots of the action at the Rinas airport did not want to talk. The Guantanamo for Serbs (Hague kangaroo tribunal) and everything that happened with generals from Serbia determined their decision. So, as for the pilots and their safety, this story never happened. Officially, no. Unofficially, the “Flying Stars” flew into a legend. 


Special sign of  “arrogance” and bravery of our pilots was attack on the airport in Tirana.  There was stationed  a squadron of 12 Apache helicopters with drones that were to be air support for the  terrorist “Atlantic Brigade”, which was assigned to cross the border over Kosare and Gorozup,  invade  Serbia together with NATO forces  and take soldierly Metohija and later Kosovo. 

“Atlantic Brigade” consisted of about 6,000 Albanians volunteers from abroad with American instructors.  With the other terrorist KLA groups retreated into Albania, they  were to perform the ground attack  during NATO air campaign.

Thus, the total force that attacked the Kosovo border is around 20,000 foreign fighters with mostly American trainers and Special Forces.

In order to back up  our soldiers in defence  of our borders, the  pilots repeatedly flew to combat in the area. The first of these attacks occurred on 13 April when 4 of our planes attacked the Atlantic Brigade preparatory camp which was located near the village of Kamenica in northern Albania. On that occasion they shot down an Apache  of Atlantic Brigade and  caused serious losses. 

Our air forces attacked NATO training camps near the border of Kosovo and Metohija, and repeated it on  05 May when the 3 Serbian Eagle and 2 Seagull ​​at short intervals and repeatedly attacked the aforementioned Atlantic Brigade.

 According to an ITAR-TASS review of the article published by the Foreign Military Review magazine of the Russian Defense Ministry, Yugoslav aviation prevented the use of American AH-64 Apache attack helicopters during the Kosovo conflict. The “NATO Losses in the War with Yugoslavia” article, the Foreign Military Review writes: “… the biggest sensation was the number of troops lost by NATO. Not just NATO pilots were killed in Yugoslavia, but also search-and-rescue troops that were tasked with locating downed pilots. Yugoslav air defenses have shot down no less than five NATO helicopters, which resulted in deaths of about 100 troops of the Alliance.” 

According to the Foreign Military Review, the reason why Pentagon did not use Apaches in Kosovo “...had nothing to do with technical problems with the helicopters or insufficient training of their flight crews, as was often stated by NATO officials. The only reason was the April 26 attack carried out by Yugoslav “Galeb” fighters against “Rinas” airport located near Albania’s capital of Tirana, where the Apaches were based. That day two groups of these light helicopters were destroyed and over 10 helicopters were damaged.”

A similar operation was carried out by Yugoslav AF on April 18 against the airport in Tuzla, Bosnia, used as an emergency landing site for NATO aircraft. As the result of this attack some fifteen NATO aircraft have been destroyed on the ground. The Foreign Military Review writes: “Despite the fact that American aircraft dominated NATO operations, they weren’t the only aircraft shot down by Yugoslav air defenses. Among the destroyed aircraft were five German “Tornadoes,” several British “Harriers'” two French “Mirages,” Belgian, Dutch, and Canadian aircraft. On June 7 the USAF lost a B-52 strategic bomber, while on May 20 a B-2A “Spirit” was shot down.”

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