U.S. Apache helicopters due in Albania on Wednesday
Pentagon narrows causes for downed stealth plane
April 20, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon said that a delayed contingent of 24 U.S. Apache attack helicopters would begin arriving in Albania on Wednesday for use in NATO airstrikes on Yugoslavia.
The helicopters had been expected in the Albanian capital Tirana on Tuesday but poor weather delayed their departure. U.S. Brig. Gen. Charles Walk said half of the Apaches would be sent on Wednesday and the rest on Thursday.
In addition to the 700 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division who left Fort Bragg on Monday night -- with more expected to follow -- 2,300 support personnel from the North Carolina base are also being sent.
"It takes about 14 people on the ground to get one of the Apaches in the air," said Lt. Col. Vance Sales, commander of the 229th Attack Helicopter Regiment at Fort Bragg. "It is much more involved than a couple of pilots hopping in and taking off."
"Task Force Hawk," as the mission is called, includes military personnel to operate land-based missiles to protect the Apaches, known as "tank killing" helicopters, from Yugoslav air defenses.
The Pentagon on Tuesday also disclosed new details about the downing of a F-117A stealth fighter over Yugoslavia on March 27, three days after the start of the NATO bombing campaign.
"We are fairly confident we know what happened that caused the loss of this airplane, but I am not prepared to divulge it," said Maj. Gen. Bruce Carlson.
He said the Pentagon's investigation was not finished but that "an act of God and loss of consciousness by the pilot" had been ruled out as reasons for the crash.
Yugoslavia says it shot down the F-117A, a claim the Pentagon has so far refused to confirm.
U.S. defense sources told CNN Tuesday that immediately after the plane went down, NATO authorities considered firing a cruise missile at the wreckage of the airplane to destroy evidence of its stealth technology.
Military leaders in the Pentagon and in Europe decided against the idea when they saw on Serb television that the area had been overrun by firefighters and other civilians, the sources said.
The Pentagon determined that keeping a lid on the technology, which is now about 20 years old, was "not worth" risking the deaths of civilians, according to the sources.
Helicopters, support personnel due in Albania
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