FINAL ANALYSIS OF THE SREBRENICA AND ZEPA AIRLIFT
(Document/Translation Courtesy: The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia)
"The demilitarized zone of Srebrenica was established on 19 April 1993. Although the zone was declared a safe and demilitarized area, Chetniks [Serbs] were constantly endangering this area by sabotage attacks, preventing convoys of food and medical supplies from entering and there were constant carrying out of propaganda activities"
Communications centre GSS
Command post Kakanj
Department for cryptographic data protection
Date and time:
Saturday, 17 February 1996, 1859 hours
ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC OF BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
COMMAND OF THE AIR FORCE AND ANTI-AIRCRAFT DEFENCE.
DEFENCE OF THE REPUBLIC
Zenica, 17 February 1995.
MAIN STAFF OF THE ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC OF BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
To Brigadier General Enver Hadzihasanovic personally.
FINAL ANALYSIS OF THE SREBRENICA AND ZEPA AIRLIFT
Pursuant to your verbal order we are sending you the analysis of the functioning of the airlifts to Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde.
Standing in for the commander
Colonel Erdin Hrustovic
– Main taks of the airlift
– Final analysis of the Srebrenica airlift
b. Engagement of forces and equipment
c. Losses and damage
Attachment 1: Schedule of flights to Srebrenica
4. Final analysis of the airlift to Zepa
b. Deployment of forces and equipment
c. Conditions in which tasks were executed
d. Losses and damage
Attachment 2: Timetable of flights to Zepa
Attachment 3: R:1:100,000 map (Disposition of enemy Anti-aircraft defence frontline) Zepa and Srebrenica
Between 27 February 1993 and 07 May 1995 there was an airlift from the territory of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet the needs of the enclave of Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde. Themain aim of introducing and maintaining the airlift was to transport and ensure combat equipment, evacuation of wounded, the functioning of government organs in the enclaves, additional training of the officer corps on free territories of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to maintain communication.
Establishing and maintaining the airlift was of vital significance in creating conditions for defending the population and territories when they were encircled and blockaded despite the presence of the UNPROFOR which did not fulfil its mandate to protect the civilian population and territories of the so-called enclaves. Morale of the fighters and civilians has improved not only because of the supply of UBS (war material) and MTS (material and technical equipment) but also because of the reassurance that they have not been abandoned and forgotten and that the organs of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina government are willing and determined to make every effort to ensure that even this free part of the territory of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been defended and preserved despite all efforts by the aggressor [the Serbs] to seize the enclaves and carry out ethnic cleansing using methods of genocide.
In order to realize this aim and to fulfil the task of establishing and maintaining the airlift, the members of the Air Force and anti-aircraft defence have shown great courage, dedication and professional skill despite all exacerbating circumstances. Although the aggressor has succeeded in capturing the safe area of Srebrenica and Zepa, with the tacit agreement of the international community and failure to observe resolutions adopted by the Security Council. What the members of the Air Force and the anti-aircraft defence did has enabled more long-term armed combat and eased the consequences of pulling out civilians and fighters onto free territories of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
2. MAIN TAKS OF THE AIRLIFT
The main tasks of establishing and maintaining the airlift were:
– transport of weapons and military equipment
– transport of fighters and passengers for various reasons
– transport of material to enable functioning of military and civilian government
– maintaining communication
– transport of the sick, wounded and medical supplies
– transport food (salt)
OF THE AIRLIFT FOR THE 2ND CORPS OF THE ARMY OF BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA AND THE TUZLA-PODRINJE CANTON
– SREBRENICA -
An airlift operated from the free territory of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina between 27 February 1993 and 30 March 1993 to meet the needs of the 2nd Corps and the Tuzla-Podrinje Canton in the besieged Srebrenica area. From 31 December 1994 until 7 May 1995 the Srebrenica enclave was supplied by means of this airlift to Zepa. Forty-two thousand people lived in the Srebrenica area before the latest Chetnik offensive. Of these, around 32,000 people were from Zvornik, Bratunac, Vlasenica, Visegrad and Han Pijesak. Twenty-thousand people lived in the town itself, which was three times greater /illegible/.
c) CONDITIONS IN WHICH TASKS WERE EXECUTED
A. FITNESS AND TRAINING LEVEL OF THE FORCES
Transport helicopters were introduced as part of the arms of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina on 14 February 1993. The first flight left for Srebrenica on 27 February 1993.
Within 12 days, two (airforce) pilots were successfully trained to fly at dusk and in daytime, despite not having flown for a year.
As the Tuzla VG (Airforce) did not have any navigation pilots for medium transport helicopters Mi-8-T up to that point, the tasks were executed by two young pilots flying light multi-purpose helicopters.
Four crews began training and were trained in record time for carrying out unit-specific tasks in good and adverse weather conditions during the day (dusk and dawn).
The technical team managed to service and maintain the helicopters to a sufficient degree for carrying out tasks, despite a lack of tools, measuring and control devices, written material and having to work in the open air during winter.
B. FLIGHT SECURITY
All flights of the airlift to Srebrenica were completed with minimum flight security:
– there was no navigation, meteorological or landing (take-off) security at the landing location.
– intelligence support – the flights took place over two front lines on the way out and two front lines on the return.
Each flight was exposed to aggressor fire anti-aircraft defence system.
During one flight, one of the pilot navigators was slightly injured.
Intelligence reports received and real events observed by the crew did not correspond which made carrying out tasks more difficult.
C. AIRSPACE CONTROL
The Army of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina at that time, as is the case today, did no have control over the airspace within the borders of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. All flights were carried out during the UN flight ban and while the aggressor had complete control of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina airspace and the absolute superiority in the air.
D. OTHER CONDITIONS
– tasks were carried out with helicopters which were not intended for this type of task (flight over the frontline without previously disabling the aggressor’s anti-aircraft defence system) and with helicopters the vital parts of which were not protected against infantry weapons.
– the necessity of landing in the Srebrenica sector near the front line.
– low level of secrecy while carrying out tasks.
– great psychological and physical pressures on the crew.
– each new flight was made more difficult by the improvement of the aggressor’s anti-aircraft defence system.
1) LOSSES AND DAMAGE
During operation of the airlift:
– one helicopter crashed, the crew was slightly injured, the cargo was not destroyed (UBS).
The crash occurred on Mt. Konjuh five minutes after take-off, because of overloading. The helicopter has been used for spare parts.
– one helicopter was slightly damaged after being hit by the enemy in mid-flight. The pilot navigator was slightly injured.
Six successful landings were carried out while operating the airlift, which covered about 140 square kilometres. This safe area was in the immediate vicinity of the Mali Zvornik – Sarajevo air corridor and was used to supply the Sarajevo – Romanija Corps of the aggressor’s army. Since the beginning of the aggression on the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former JNA (Yugoslav People’s Army) and paramilitary formations have been systematically ethnically cleansing eastern Bosnia of Muslims.
For a long time Srebrenica remained a symbol of defence. At the beginning of 1993 the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was advancing, and at that point Srebrenica had at least some kind of a link. The Tuzla – Cerska corridor was in some places barely two kilometres wide, but it existed. The aggressor carried out offensives on Cerska, Konjevic Polje and Srebrenica while mobilizing two additional Serbian TO (territorial defence) brigades from Serbia. It activated the Ponikve military airport near Uzice, activated Serbian volunteer brigades, while the army of the so-called Yugoslavia activated one armoured mechanized brigade and two motorized brigades of the Uzice Corps and placed long-range artillery at four forward points in Serbia: Banja Koviljaca, Mali Zvornik, Ljubovija and Bajina Basta. Cerska and Konjevic Polje were captured. The Chetnik forces approached Srebrenica. Both the fighters and the population of Srebrenica were determined not to allow the Chetniks to enter the town. Around 1000 fighters defended the line, while 5000 civilians turned on the Chetniks with their bare hands and together they succeeded in preventing them from entering the town and slaughtering the civilians.
On 15 April 1993 General Morillon entered Srebrenica. The demilitarized zone of Srebrenica was established on 19 April 1993. Although the zone was declared a safe and demilitarized area, Chetniks were constantly endangering this area by sabotage attacks, preventing convoys of food and medical supplies from entering and there were constant carrying out of propaganda activities. The Canadian battalion, which was later relieved by a Dutch battalion [Dutchbat], did not fulfil the mandate envisaged by UN Resolutions 824 and 836. Because of UNPROFOR hesitancy, the aggressor started attacking in June 199(illegible), and a general offensive in early July on the safe area of Srebrenica. The fighters and some of the people of Srebrenica started to break out towards the free territory of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina where the majority, in a superhuman effort, managed to get through Tuzla and Kladanj. The Chetniks captured the “safe area” of Srebrenica, and this was followed by unheard of genocide of the Muslim population
b) ENGAGEMENT OF FORCES AND EQUIPMENT
The airlift was operated by the forces and with the equipment of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina between 27 February 1993 and 30 March 1993, using crews from the VG (fire support group) Tuzla.
Planning, organization, preparation and control of the airlift were carried out by the command of the VG Tuzla via the Air FOrce and Anti-Aircraft Defence Administration which had been given the original task by the Supreme Command Staff.
Two medium-sized Mi-8-Transport helicopters were engaged in maintaining the airlift. One helicopter crashed on 10 March 1995. The helicopter was destroyed, the crew slightly injured and the cargo undamaged.
- Two airforce (helicopter) pilots
– Two navigation pilots
– Four flight mechanics
were engaged in the airlift for Srebrenica.
The airlift for Srebrenica was maintained for 33 days. Flights to Srebrenica were attempted on average every three days; the flights succeeded every fifth day. It has to be emphasized that this task was carried out by only four pilots of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Seventeen combat missions were carried out (one flight out and a second flight back).
Out of 10 attempts in total to take off for Srebrenica, six times the crew succeeded in executing the mission; four times the task was not carried out for the following reason:
– one helicopter crash
– one mission was aborted because of intense aggressor anti-aircraft defence
– twice the mission was aborted because of bad weather in the landing sector
Five tons of MTS and 10 tons of UBS in total were transported to Srebrenica, while 20 wounded and 29 passengers were evacuated.
c) CONDITIONS IN WHICH TASKS WERE EXECUTED
During operation of the airlift, six landings were successfully executed in daytime, which was very unfavourable in terms of flight security.
Maintaining the airlift justified the purpose for which it was organized, given that a certain quantity of UBS and MTS were successfully delivered, various kinds of passengers were transported and the wounded evacuated.
Operation of the airlift helped the Srebrenica fighters prevent a quick breakthrough, capture and genocide of Muslims and enabled government structures to continue to political fight to declare the zone around Srebrenica a safe area, which it nevery fully was because UN Resolutions were ignored and mandates not observed.
Note: The airlift to Zepa was also used to supply the Srebrenica zone and can be considered an extension of the airlift for Srebrenica.
The airlift to Zepa is given separately.
of the airlift for the 1st and 2nd Corps of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Tuzla – Podrinje Canton
– ZEPA -
An airlift operated for the safe area of Zepa between 31 December 1994 and 7 May 1995. The airlift was maintained until a helicopter crash in which the entire crew and nine passengers died.
The zone of Zepa was entirely encircled and in a similar situation to the zone of Srebrenica. The zone was defended by only one brigade, the 185th Zepa Light Brigade. The frontline was over 40km long. The brigade was equipped with 30% of artillery weapons, two 60 mm mortars, one 82 mm mortar, six Zoljas (handheld rocket launcher) and only 20,000 7.62 mm bullets. Declaring it a safe area did not prevent the aggressor from carrying out offensive operations against this area. As humanitarian aid had ceased, UNPROFOR forces were not fulfilling their mandate, the enemy was preparing to capture the zone of Zepa, while Muslims were being expelled and were the victims of genocide, the main issue was hot to protect the population.
It was necessary to supply UBS and MTS, to establish a communication system, ensure the functioning of military and civilian government and to lift the morale of the fighters and the population of the Zepa zone.
Such were the conditions in which the airlift was established. Its effect was to facilitate defence for half a year and in the end, in July 1995, it enabled combatants and some civilians to pull out to the free territories of Olovo, Kladanj and Tuzla.
b) ENGAGEMENT OF FORCES AND EQUIPMENT
The airlift was organized between 31 December 1993 and 7 May 1995 with the forces and equipment of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and included the use of helicopters and crews of the air Force and anti-aircraft defence of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The original order was given by the Kakanj Supreme Command Staff (later on the Main Staff of the Army of the republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina) which obtained the assets for transport (UBS, MTS etc) via GLOC (Main Logistics Centre) and supplied lists of passengers to be taken to and from Zepa.
The main agent of this mission was the Strhe Zenica and later the 2 VBr (2nd Aviation Brigade) with the inclusion of pilots from the air Force and Anti-Aircraft Defence command and 1st VBr.
The command of the Air Force and anti-aircraft defence ensured the maintenance of the lines of communication and the engagement of the command of the 185th Light Brigade Zepa on handling the helicopters. A special mention needs to be given to the deputy commander of the 185th Light Brigade, Major Dzevad Brgulja, a former Mi-8 pilot whose experience was invaluable for the success of the landings and the coordination of the Air Force and the anti-aircraft defence of the 185th Light Brigade during maintenance of the airlift.
The type of helicopter which was used to carry out missions was the Mi-8 MTV, Mi-17 and Mi-8 AMT.
The following flight crew participated in the airlift:
– Airforce pilots – 8
– navigation pilot – navigators – 6
– flight mechanics – 8
Hours of flight: 10.25
GM1 fuel use: approximately 8,200 l
Transported to Zepa: UBS – 17 t
Transported from Zepa: 46 passengers, 5 wounded
The Zepa VON (air guidance officer) used the air ICOM IC-A21 radio transmitter to maintain communication with the helicopter.
c) CONDITIONS IN WHICH TASKS WERE EXECUTED
The flights to Zepa began in conditions of total encirclement and blockade of all items, even medical supplies and food.
The aggressor established firm lines in the zones of responsibility of the 1st and 2nd Corps on the line between Sarajevo and Tuzla, with strong anti-aircraft defence and a communication line from the forward line to the very borders of the Zepa zone. An air surveillance, warning and guidance system with the centre at Mt. Jahorina necessitated low flying above mountainous terrain. The crews were not completely trained for low flying at night and landing with a loaded helicopter on confident space at 1500m altitude.
The aggressor deployed ample anti-aircraft defence in order to prevent the airlift.
[ text missing ]
A permit for this type of flight could not be obtained. There was the constant danger that the enemy, despite such a ban, would intercept flights on its territory with either aircraft or helicopters, even at the landing point. However, despite everything the pilots’ determination to help the population and the fighters of Zepa had a positive effect on maintaining the airlift.
The main types of conditions in which tasks were carried out:
– insufficiently trained crews
– lack of ground navigation equipment
– high density along the frontline, the enemy’s anti-aircraft defence equipment, insufficient intelligence about the enemy behind the lines on the occupied territory
– unprotected helicopter (not armoured and without heat decoys)
– all missions were carried out at night to reduce the chance of being spotted and hit
– the flights were undertaken at very low altitude
– moonlight was the source of light used
– the enemy was in constant readiness to down and destroy the helicopter
– the helicopter was loaded with cargo landing at high altitude – 1480 m
– narrow landing terrain
– there was only one safe direction for landing
– the crews used JPS – 100 navigation equipment which only partly provided precise guidance
– intense psychological pressure on the pilots to carry out missions in all conditions
– the search and rescue service could not be organized at night
– inadequate treatment and living conditions of pilots and flight technicians who carried out the missions
– (in the aforementioned condition pilots were required to carry out the most difficult task which could be asked of a medium transport helicopter pilot who up to that point had been treated as combatant in the rear).
The death of the crew on the last flight had a significant impact on the pilots. It is important to mention that the enemy managed to establish a very strong anti-aircraft defence system during that time. Attacks were recorded in 80% of cases.
Due to damage the helicopter had to remain at Zepa during one flight (at the Igrisnik heliport), so that the technical crew, which was sent to Zepa by helicopter, could repair the damage. This task was successfully carried out.
d) LOSSES AND DAMAGE
While the airlift was operating between 31 December and 7 May 1995, the following occurred:
– one crash in which the crew (three members) and nine passengers died, and 10 passengers were injured.
The helicopter was destroyed and remained at Igrisnik in the Zepa zone.
– On five occasions the helicopter was hit by infantry fire.
– On one occasion, due to damage, the helicopter did not return according to the flight schedule, but a technical crew had to be sent in by helicopter to carry out on-the-spot repairs and return (this operation was carried out better than the rescue of the American pilot!)
Thanks to the crews – their individual preparation and courage, there were no greater losses or damage.
Certain results in terms of transporting UBS, MTS and passengers were achieved by maintaining the airlift between 31 December 1994 and 7 May 1994. This had a significant impact on increasing the combat readiness of the 185th Zepa Light Brigade and the psychological state and morale of the fighters and civilian population, and increased defence capabilities of the Zepa safe area. Later on, this facilitated the pulling out of soldiers and civilians from the Zepa zone to the free territory of Olovo, Kladanj and Tuzla and eased the consequences of the genocide which was prepared and carried out against the Muslim population.
Note: A certain quantity of transported equipment was taken over by the command of the 28th Srebrenica Division and this data may be used for the assessment of aid to the Srebrenica safe area. We did not have conclusive data on the type of UBS, MTS and other material.
The analysis of the airlift to Gorazde is provided only in the form of a chart in attachment no.3.