Military Aviation

The story of when a USAF B-2 Spirit bombed Chinese Embassy in Belgrade during Operation Allied Force

The B-2 Spirit

The first B-2A Spirit was publicly displayed on Nov. 22, 1988, when it was rolled out of its hangar at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California. Its first flight was July 17, 1989. The B-2 Combined Test Force, Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California, is responsible for flight testing the engineering, manufacturing and development aircraft on the B-2.

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Whiteman AFB, Missouri, is the only operational base for the B-2. The first aircraft, Spirit of Missouri, was delivered Dec. 17, 1993. Depot maintenance responsibility for the B-2 is performed by Air Force contractor support and is managed at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker AFB, Okla.

This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

The combat effectiveness of the B-2 was proved in Operation Allied Force, flying from its home station at Whiteman AFB and returning to base without landing.

The Spirit was responsible for destroying 33 percent of all Serbian targets in the first eight weeks.

Chinese Embassy in Belgrade after the B-2 Bombing

B-2 Bombing Chinese Embassy

As explained by Brian D. Laslie and Adam Tooby in their book Operation Allied Force 1999 NATO’s airpower victory in Kosovo, one of the more unusual events of the war occurred on May 7, 1999 when an American B-2 Spirit dropped five JDAMs on the Chinese Embassy. Both immediately after the event and in the more than 20 years since the attack, there has been much discussion and argument about how the United States could possibly misidentify a foreign nation’s embassy as a legitimate target. While some have characterized it as not an accident, an equal number pointed out that many older maps did not note that location as that of the Chinese Embassy. Complicating the matter even further was that this particular strike had the aid of the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Since it was B-2 Spirits which carried out the attack, some in NATO were quick to point out that these strategic assets were operating through an American-only chain of command. However, at the headquarters in Brussels, NATO officials stated that every target was “meticulously planned.” This particular attack did occur on a night where NATO strikes ramped up considerably and included the Dobanovci command complex and paramilitary group using the Hotel Yugoslavia as barracks.

It is entirely possible that emissions coming from the Hotel Yugoslavia could have been interpreted as coming from the buildings of the embassy. Thus, when one considers outdated maps being used to identify supposedly empty buildings that were actively emitting military communications across the street from the known location of Serbian paramilitary forces, it is not a stretch to see how the accident occurred.

Operation Allied Force 1999 NATO’s airpower victory in Kosovo is published by Osprey Publishing and is available to order here.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and Sasa Stankovic/EPA/Shutterstock

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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