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Monday, 14 August, 2000, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
Bombs missed Kosovo targets
Only 40% of bombs hit intended targets
The majority of the bombs dropped by British forces during the Kosovo conflict missed their targets, an investigation by the BBC and industry magazine Flight International has revealed.

A classified Ministry of Defence report revealed the accuracy rate of missiles fired by the Royal Air Force was just 40% - and in the case of some bombs, as low as 2%.

But Downing Street has defended the record of the RAF saying it was as accurate in Kosovo as it has ever been, and ministers have denied any attempts to cover up the statistics.


Nobody would expect 100% accuracy. This is not a video game, this is war

Government spokesman
The new information indicates that collateral damage, civilian casualties and damage to property might have been worse than previously thought.

The revelation followed a news conference on 10 February where the MoD told journalists the Kosovo bombing campaign had been the best ever conducted by the RAF.

But the conference was continued in closed session the next day where a different picture emerged, the BBC has discovered.

'Worst performance'

Then a senior MoD analyst admitted the precision rate was only 40% and only 2% of the old-fashioned 1,000lb dumb bombs had hit their targets.

But it is thought the high altitude from which the attacks were made affected accuracy.

Many bombs were dropped from a height of 30,000 feet in order to minimise the risk to RAF pilots.

Worker removing bomb damage in Serbia
Accurately assessing bomb damage has proved difficult
A Downing Street spokesman has stressed that the accuracy figures related to confirmed hits.

"There were more hits than that. These were the ones they could verify with their own eyes," a spokesman said.

"Overall, this was one of the most accurate campaigns in the RAF's history. Nobody would expect 100% accuracy. This is not a video game, this is war."

But BBC defence reporter Andrew Gilligan said the Kosovo bombing campaign was the RAF's worst performance in its three most recent engagements.

The MoD said better equipment was being bought to address the problem, but some of the new weapons may not arrive until 2006.

Speaking for Jane's Defence Weekly, analyst Paul Beaver told BBC News Online the figures should not be taken "out of context".

He said: "The 2% accuracy figure is misleading because, although it is recognised that the miss rate was about 10-12%, the remaining 89% or so could not be positively identified because of the number of attacks against specific targets caused confusion in attributing actual hits."

The D-Notice committee - which advises the press on matters of national security - had said the original report was "unbalanced" and asked Flight International to contact the MoD so it could be "put into context".

Committee secretary, Rear Admiral Nick Wilkinson, denied he had tried to block or change the report.

He added: "Far from issuing a D-Notice, as some people have put it, I actually facilitated the whole article being published."

Armed Forces Minister John Spellar said the public was not lied to over claims that the bombing campaign was highly successful.

Cover-up claim

He strongly defended the government from charges of a cover up dismissing them as the "normal media cry".

Turning to the statistics he said the 2% hit rate referred to those bombs, dropped in bad weather, "that were actually seen to hit their targets".

John Spellar
John Spellar: "Unaccounted for doesn't mean they didn't hit"

The Minister added: "The craters surrounding the sites are ones that would indicate that we didn't have such a high rate of failure as that."

When asked if the poor hit rate would indicate an increase in the estimates of civilian causalities Mr Spellar replied simply: "We didn't drop any unguided bombs on Belgrade."

He called the air war over Kosovo "one of the accurate campaigns ever" and added "where there wasn't a danger of collateral damage then we used unguided weapons with a success rate we weren't able to measure".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andrew Gilligan
"The RAF's worst performance in its three most recent engagements"
UK Armed Forces Minister, John Spellar
"We were actually getting extremely accurate results"
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