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Saturday, April 3, 1999 Published at 03:39 GMT 04:39 UK


UK

High-tech weapons boost Harriers' arms

Cloud cover has been a problem for the Harriers

Tons of extra weapons have been delivered to Britain's multi-million pound Harrier strike force, which is waiting for clear weather to resume raids on Serb targets.

Kosovo: Special Report
The pilots, operating from southern Italy, have been thwarted for a fourth consecutive night by the weather from carrying out bombing.

The new consignment has been flown from Britain to the Gioia del Colle air base on four Hercules transporter aircraft.

Group Captain Ian Travers refused to give details of the shipment, but said it will significantly increase the pilots' "tactical options".

In order to combat the weather, remote-controlled drones will be used to help Nato forces pinpoint their targets.

UK 'support for ground troops'

The latest failed mission came as an opinion poll published in the Guardian newspaper reported that a majority of UK people would support the introduction of ground troops.

The poll, carried out by the ICM organisation, found that 58% backed the use of ground forces compared to just over a third against.

Critics of the proposed use of ground troops say it will take up to two months to implement the strategy.

Unmanned drones

Military concerns over the number of aborted Nato missions has reportedly prompted the UK to send unmanned reconnaissance drones to the area.

The Phoenix UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), which only came into service with the Army in November last year after being developed at a cost of £300m by Marconi, will fly over the Kosovo battlefields to provide ''real time'' video pictures of targets.

Conventional photo reconnaissance aircraft must return to base to have pictures developed and analysed, allowing Serbs time to move troops and equipment.

But the Phoenix is remotely controlled from the ground and is powered by a two-stroke engine. It can remain airborne for up to five hours at a time and has a range of about 35 miles.

A report in Friday's Daily Telegraph suggests the Americans are sending similar equipment to Kosovo, underlining Nato's concern about its failure to locate and destroy concealed Serb units.


[ image: An RAF technician assesses the weather]
An RAF technician assesses the weather
Satellite surveillance is also reported to have been affected by the weather.

The Harrier GR7 air-to-ground attack plane - costing £20m each - is among the most sophisticated aircraft operated by the RAF.

Air Marshall Sir John Day, at Friday's daily MoD briefing, said the Allies had always planned on the assumption that their attacks might be hampered by the weather.

He said: "We and our allies have a range of weapons which are effective in all weathers and these continue to be used, both by day and by night."

The majority of Thursday's missions had been cancelled, he said, but the raids which went ahead saw the American B-1 bomber make its combat debut. They were launched from RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.

Sir John said: "The weather in the Balkans is forecast to improve soon, and this ought to strike fear into all of Milosevic's armed forces, particularly those who are carrying out the repression in Kosovo."

He added: "In spite of the very poor weather we are substantially damaging Milosevic's military machine and he is paying a high price for the terror which he is imposing upon the Kosovar Albanians.''





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