Canadian planes heavily involved in Yugoslav campaign

Canada's armed forces gave an accounting of their role in the 78 days of NATO bombing over Yugoslavia on Wednesday.

They revealed that Canadian planes were deeply involved in all aspects of the bombing campaign, attacking both military targets and vital infrastructure throughout Yugoslavia.

They also denied that Canadian pilots were responsible for any of the major bombing mistakes of the war.

Canada's air force says it can look back on its Kosovo mission as a job well done. For the first time Canadian commanders gave details of the missions flown by Canadian pilots during the 11 weeks that NATO rained bombs and missiles on Yugoslavia.

General Ray Henault says Canadian CF-18's flew 678 sorties during the war and dropped more than 500 bombs in 158 successful sorties, destroying targets ranging from airfields to armoured vehicles, and at least one of the bridges across the Danube.

"We flew 10 per cent of all Nato strike missions," said Henault. "Canadians were certainly considered to be among the best and ... have proven themselves to be on the A-Team."

Henault says Canadian Forces are also proud of the bombs they didn't drop -- the bombs that fell on the Chinese embassy, a refugee convoy in Kosovo, or a crowded Serbian bridge on market day. The military says none of the notorious incidents of so-called "collateral damage" involved Canadian pilots.

"We will not know until the final damage assessment is done, but we know of no significant civilian damage or deaths caused by Canadian weapons deliveries," said the general.

That doesn't mean no deaths occurred, though. About a quarter of Canada's smart bombs missed their targets, as was the case with other NATO members.

And many of Canada's targets were civilian installations, such as refineries, manufacturing plants, and what NATO calls "C3" centres, for command, control and communications. That's a catch-all that includes everything from government ministries, to TV stations, to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's house.

Canadian commanders say Canadian planes hit a number of C3 targets in Belgrade and elsewhere, but they won't say just what they were.

As for the cost of the campaign, Henault says it cost Canadians $26 million. Replacing weapons cost $18 million.