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NAOCC monitors air force operations over BiH

By 2nd Lt. Bruno Ménard
First published in
SFOR Informer#120, August 22, 2001

NATO Air Operation Co-ordination Centre (NAOCC), situated in the SFOR headquarters at Butmir, monitors all the military air activities over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Inventory of fixtures.

Camp Butmir - “I would like to fly over Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) from Sarajevo to Mostar, on August 25, between 8:15 am and 10:30 am. Will you give me permission to fly in this zone and on this date?” a fighter pilot asked the NAOCC. Before giving its answer, NAOCC will first pass on this request to the only organisation able to answer, Air Command in Southern Europe (COMAIRSOUTH). They make the flying decisions, but will pass it on via the Balkans Combined Air Operation Centre (BCAOC), situated in Naples. It is very rare that a flight request is refused, except when another aircraft will be using the same air lane at that moment. “Nobody can circulate over the country without the permission of SFOR,” American Col. Pete Gavares, NAOCC director, asserts.
NAOCC missions
BiH has been an independent State since the signing of the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP) and its borders are watched by its police. But what about its air space? SFOR forces are still in charge of its control. The mission of NAOCC is to co-ordinate and to approve the military flight requests (including helicopters and planes) over the territory. The missions tend to decrease. They are down from 140 in Sept., 2000 to 20 in July, 2001.
That is why NAOCC is less under pressure than previously: “We are at present a very small team of eight men,” the American colonel clarifies. A person takes charge of demands emanating from helicopters, another of the planes and the rest work in the “CAS (Close Air Support) van.”
It is some 100 metres farther in the village of the NIC (National Intelligence Cell). There is a decline of military operations for the benefit of the civilian ones. “Two years ago, all the air space was under military control, NAOCC director indicates. Nov. 27, 2000, we closed the air military control over the eastern part of the country. On Jan. 15, 2001, it was the western part. Now, we can say that we have normalized the air space.”
A look at the entities’ air forces
The armies of the Federation (VF) and the Republika Srpska (VRS) each have their own air forces. The other mission of NAOCC is to monitor and to co-ordinate their activation, notably in case of air training. Both armies must ask NAOCC for permission to fly, knowing that they are not authorized to cross the Inter-Entity Boundary Line (IEBL). Also, NAOCC must know the situation of the Entities’ radar, the reason which they need to use it, before approval is given.
Infrastructures are missing in the country. Before the war, they were spread out in the former Yugoslavia. Today, it is necessary to train staff, meteorologists, flying personnel, air-traffic controllers, and the country has few means to follow up their formation.
It is difficult to know how long it will take before the country can take over on its own. “We shall return the air space when Bosnia-Herzegovina is ready,” Col Gavares sums up.

Related link: SFOR at Work