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Balkans Conflict: Yugoslav MiG is shot down in dogfight.

A Yugoslav fighter was shot down after a dogfight with a Nato plane yesterday in the first air-to-air combat since day three of the conflict.

The MiG 29, one of the most modern in the Yugoslav air force, was believed to have been climbing to challenge Nato planes.

It would have been spotted by early-warning sentry aircraft and a US Air Force F-16 fighter-bomber was ordered to intercept.

After what was called an "air-to-air confrontation" by Nato military spokesman Maj-Gen Walter Jertz, the Yugoslav jet was shot down.

It was said the MiG 29, a Russian-designed plane, was flying west over Serbia at about 13,000ft - just below the height where most Nato planes operate and close enough to be a direct threat.

No other details were immediately available from Nato headquarters in Brussels.

The MiG 29 is the third Yugoslav warplane shot down in dogfights with Nato jets since the conflict began.

Two were downed on day three of the campaign by F-15s when they crossed over into Bosnian air space and were thought to be about to launch attacks on US troops.

Since then the Yugoslav air force has tried to avoid confrontations, launching only low-flying missions and helicopter flights, despite 80 of their aircraft being destroyed on the ground by Nato bombings.

Yesterday's shooting down of a MiG 29 could signify a strategic decision by the Yugoslav military to try to take on Allied planes in a bid to bring one down and score a major propaganda coup.

However, it could also be a sign of desperation by the Serbs frustrated at being unable to hit back as the intensity of Nato attacks increases.
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Title Annotation:International
Author:Roberts, Bob
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 5, 1999
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