I turn around, and… I’m already a pilot! On the monitor screen, I see myself in flight gear, flying somewhere. Either I attack the “invisible” American, or I pilot it myself. Fortunately, everything is virtual.
To complete the experience, every visitor to the Kalemegdan Fortress Museum is virtually ‘piloted’. Photo: Igor Elkov
For the F-117 Nighthawk (“Night hawk”) I hunted for a long time, even a lot.
There are only two places on Earth where these “stealth” planes can be seen. All F-117s were taken out of service by the US Air Force and moved to the famous “airplane graveyard” in the Arizona desert. But they are supported in preparation for flight and sometimes even lifted into the air. True, they will not let us into this air base (Davis-Monthan), the installation is secret, closed to the public.
One Nighthawk is located in Belgrade. Photo: Marko M, CC BY-SA 3.0, wikimedia.org
But there is a better way: a “Nighthawk” is in Belgrade.
In the spring of 1999, the downing of this plane became a worldwide sensation. Especially when the details became known: he did not fall due to technical problems, but was shot down.
Its wreckage was exhibited by the Serbs at the Yugoslav Aeronautical Museum. If you happen to go through Belgrade airport. Nikola Tesla, so don’t spare an hour of time. The museum is a few hundred meters from the passenger terminal – in a building resembling a giant flying saucer. He’s there.
Or rather, usually there. But now the airport is under reconstruction, and some of the exhibits have been temporarily moved to the Belgrade Kalemegdan Fortress. Wonderful museum, you wander for a long time among the artifacts of the ancient history of the South Slavs, and before leaving you immerse yourself in the military atmosphere of spring-summer 1999. Large-scale installation: destruction in Belgrade, photos of dead civilians. Or here are the real cluster bombs with which NATO planes hit Yugoslav cities, some of these shells had depleted uranium shells or rods. The equipment of the downed American pilots, the wreckage of the F-16 fighter, which Ukraine now so stubbornly claims.
NATO “uranium” bombs in the museum’s exhibit stand alongside the bombs with which Hitler bombarded the Yugoslavs. The parallels are obvious.
The NATO bombs that bombed Yugoslavia in 1999. For 78 days, the aviation of the countries of the alliance carried out 38,000 sorties and inflicted 10,000 bombardments. Part of the bombs contained uranium 238 (left). / Aerial bomb: 220 tons of these were dropped on Belgrade by German bombers in April 1941. Hitler attacked the city of 400,000 without declaring war (right). Photo: Igor Elkov
Yes, but virtually “seating” people in airplane cockpits is a free service for museum visitors: for a complete immersion in this monstrous situation. It is in fact monstrous – and the consequences for health and the degree of cynicism. Think about it: the country of Yugoslavia, quite prosperous by Balkan standards, lived. At first, some foreign “deep states” opposed its peoples. And then only one nation, the Serbs, was accused of “ethnic crimes”. And it’s in the middle of a civil war, where all sides are still fierce. After that, defiantly, as in a shooting range, they began destroying infrastructure, blowing up TV towers and newsrooms, trains and factories.
Weapons and equipment of the Yugoslav army. NATO, with 6.7 million bayonets, did not dare to attack 101,000 Yugoslav soldiers on the ground. They were hit by planes and missiles. Photo: Igor Elkov
On the stand with NATO cluster bombs there is a sign – the alignment of NATO aggression forces in 1999. NATO has 6.7 million infantry, 20,000 tanks, 7,160 planes and 2,000 helicopters. From Yugoslavia – 101,000 soldiers, 1025 tanks, 155 planes and 53 helicopters.
Schematic map of countries that provided airfields or airspace for the barbaric bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. Museum exhibit in Kalemegdan Fortress. Photo: Igor Elkov
It seems that the Yugoslavs had no chance, NATO pressed by numbers and technical superiority. And then, like a thunderclap: the fall of the “Nighthawk”, which the Serbs, as everyone then thought, could not even see on the radar. And what was it taken from? Two missiles of the Soviet-made S-125 “Neva” complex. Moreover, both missiles hit their target: the first damaged the “invisible” wing (the pilot quickly ejected), the second finished off the mutilated F-117.
Let me explain: the S-125 is an anti-aircraft missile system created in the USSR in the late 1950s and entered service in the early 1960s. antique store”. Intercepting an aircraft built using stealth technologies is like knocking out the latest British Challenger or the latest German Leopard from an old grenade launcher today.
But the Serbs eliminated. The impossible is therefore possible.
By the way, the S-125 launcher is the one! – installed in the open area of the Kalemegdan Fortress. You don’t even have to buy a ticket to see and feel it with your hands. Everything is available for free. And the folk trail does not develop there.
The S-125M Neva anti-aircraft missile system is a popular exhibit of the Belgrade Military Museum in the Kalemegdan Fortress. An F-117 was shot down from it, which they then began to call “invisible” only in quotes. Photo: Igor Elkov
What does that have to do with today: with us, with Serbia? The most immediate. It is even more necessary for us Russians to refresh our memory of the Yugoslav events of spring-summer 1999 than for the Serbs themselves. There is something to think about.
It’s not my first time in Serbia, and it seems that nothing surprises me anymore. And here that is not the case. I sit with the peasants in the deep Serbian hinterland, on the border with Kosovo. Talk about life under a glass of rustic moonlight. And I ask, and so do I: where I was, what I saw. I show S-125 on the phone, I say that this is the same system that shot down the American “stealth”. Remember?
And then – shock.
They tell me: “So Zoltan didn’t know that the Americans had an invisible plane, he fired and hit.”
I smile. At one point, all of Serbia was in ironic posters: “Clinton, I’m sorry. Nismo was known and invisible” (from Serbian: “Clinton, sorry, we didn’t know he was invisible”).
But Zoltan’s name…
I love military history and know that the F-117 shot down a division under the command of Colonel Zoltan Dani, a graduate of the Minsk Higher Anti-Aircraft Missile School of the Air Defense Forces. But, I repeat, my interlocutors are peasants. It turns out that the name of this person in the country is known to everyone, from Belgrade to the outskirts?
Graphite bomb to destroy power plants. It was used by NATO aircraft on May 7, 1999 in the suburbs of Belgrade. Photo: Igor Elkov
What’s amazing? Tell me, do you personally know the names of the anti-aircraft pilots and gunners who destroyed the U-2 and captured the spy powers near Sverdlovsk on May 1, 1960? Or, say, how many will remember the name of the pilot who, in 1973, rammed an F-4 Phantom over Armenia with a ram? This is Captain Gennady Eliseev, he died, posthumously becoming a Hero of the Soviet Union. And what was the name of the pilot of the Su-15 interceptor, which in 1981 also crashed into a Canadair plane, which secretly transported weapons from Israel to Iran and violated the air border of the USSR? Hint: Valentin Kulyapin, captain.
And there are dozens of these heroes. But for some reason, we don’t remember ours.
Fortunately, the situation has changed for the better: we see the heroes of the SVO on the billboards; they don’t spare the air time and the space in the newspapers to describe their exploits. But that’s only now: since last year. And they always have.
For example, in Belgrade there is a kafana “Zora” (from Serbian: cafe “Zorya”). Every year on April 5, the fighter pilots gather here (but everyone can go to the cafe), it’s a tradition. In the middle of the night of April 5, 1941, a squadron of the air force of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia rested here. The phone rang, the commander ordered: “Alarm! Squadron, urgently to the airfield!”. The Nazis flew to Belgrade: 320 bombers, attack aircraft and fighters. Three dozen Yugoslav fighters entered the battle against this armada – everyone who could. Seven pilots died, frustrating the blows of the Nazis on their hometown. The tradition is celebrated sacredly.
The Luftwaffe’s 4th Air Fleet, which bombed Belgrade, was commanded by General Alexander Löhr. The operation was called with everyday cynicism: “Unternehmen Strafgericht” (from German: “Operation Punishment”). It was a sudden bombardment of 400,000 Belgrade without declaring war. 220 tons of bombs were dropped. Hitler thus punishes the Yugoslavs for their reluctance to fight against the whole world in alliance with Germany.
After the war, General Lehr was found and taken to Belgrade. They judged. In 1947 they were executed.
General Alexander Löhr, commander of the German 4th Air Fleet, which bombed Belgrade on April 6, 1941. Then 2,500 civilians were killed in one day of raids. In the central park of Belgrade, a portrait of the “hero” is installed and information is given about his crime. Photo: Igor Elkov
Here is my question: in 1941 the Luftwaffe brutally bombed the Moscow Kremlin, the bombs destroyed national shrines, temples and ancient palaces. Dozens of people died, mostly Kremlin fighters. Tell me, do we even know the name of the barbarian who carried out the airstrikes on our capital? I’m not talking about delivering him after the war to the scene of the crime, in Moscow, and trying him publicly.
Yes, although we are Slavs, we are different. We and the Balkans have different customs. Serbs – they are a bit of a different test. SO?
And now I will surprise you, there are few Serbs among the heroes of my report. Heroism and barbarism are moral categories, not national or religious. Alexander Löhr is not a German, but an Austrian. Colonel Zoltan Dani (hero of Serbia and the threat of American “stealth”) is of Hungarian origin. By the way, he is alive, now retired, runs a bakery in his native village. And every year, on March 27, in memory of the destruction of the F-117, they bake a cake in the form of “stealth”. A few years ago, Lieutenant-Colonel Dale Zelko came to visit him, he is the pilot of the “invisibles”, the very one: an American pilot of Slovenian origin. They baked and cut the cake together. It is said that Zelko, on his first visit to Belgrade, with tears in his eyes, repented of the troubles he had caused.
MH-60 helicopter (tail number 26009) which recovered Zelko. Photo: Alan Wilson of Stilton/ CC BY-SA 2.0/ wikimedia.org
p class=””>And there is reason to repent. NATO aircraft then used 3,000 cruise missiles and dropped 80,000 tons of bombs, including cluster bombs and depleted uranium. Up to 4,000 people died, 12,000 were injured and maimed, two-thirds of them civilians. And it is too early to summarize the results of using depleted uranium. Yes, probably not possible. His half-life is monstrous, and it is in this country, alas, forever.
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