Thursday, March 25, 1999 Published at 10:48 GMT
Britain's best in Kosovo action
Britain's top guns are taking part in dangerous sorties over Kosovo as Nato air strikes bombard President Slobodan Milosevic's Yugoslav Republic.
It is from the southern Italian town of Gioia de Colle, near Bari on the heel of Italy, that eight RAF Harrier GR7 jets fly out on the most dangerous of Nato missions in operation Deliberate Forge.
The toughest tasks
Britain's best face the toughest tasks against the Slobodan Milosevic's forces because of their aircraft, their firepower and their skill.
Having proved itself in Bosnia, Nato knows the plane is suited to the terrain. But it is also a versatile and highly effective fighter/bomber.
The personnel from No 1 Squadron, whose base is at RAF Wittering, fly the latest version of the plane. They are equipped with the most up to date night vision systems, making the GR7 day/night capable.
They carry awesome firepower including up to 16 Mk 82 or six Mk 83 bombs, six cluster bombs, four Maverick ASMs, or 10 rocket pods on seven wing stations.
Even allowing for troublesome weather conditions which may disrupt the laser-guided bombs, this is still a formidable threat to President Milosevic's forces.
Also based in Gioia del Colle are the Canberra PR9s of No 39 Squadron - bombers with little armament that rely on high speed, altitude and maneuverability to avoid confrontation.
Nato's military involvement comes from a 13 countries united in their condemnation of Serb atrocities.
But Britain is contributing in a support role and on land and sea as well as on the front line in the air.
Two Tristar tanker/transports fly out of Ancona, mid-way down the eastern coast of Italy, providing important mid-air refuelling to Nato's aircraft, giving them more range and therefore more tactical options.
... and sea
The first wave of air strikes would come from cruise missiles aimed at knocking out Serbia's air defences and again Britain's forces are likely to play their part.
HMS Splendid, a nuclear-powered submarine loaded with the latest Tomahawk missiles and which was only launched last year, has used its missiles - the first time the Royal Navy has used the Tomahawk in anger.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said each missile carries a single warhead of up to 454 kilograms, with a range of 714 miles to an accuracy of 30 feet.
HMS Iron Duke is also in the Adriatic as part of Nato's standing force.
Tough looking, tough acting
If Nato ground troops have to go in to Kosovo to implement a peace deal, Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Jackson may have to live up to the name of Britain's toughest soldier.
Leading troops into Kosovo could be fraught with difficulties and diplomacy.
But Lieutenant-General Jackson has a depth of experience in the Balkans to draw on - he commanded the UN implementation force in Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1995 and 1996.