A crucial warning to a U.S. pilot downed over Bosnia last month was delayed because the American spy plane that sent the message used a uniquely American transmission system but was dealing with a non-U.S. allied radar plane, Defense Department officials said Friday.
The American U-2 spy plane detected the presence of the Bosnian Serb surface-to-air missile launcher that shot down Capt. Scott O’Grady’s F-16 fighter jet minutes before it fired two missiles. The U-2 tried first to pass the information to an AWACS plane from a NATO ally in contact with O’Grady but had to resend it another way.
The AWACS, whose nationality was not disclosed, does not have the equipment to receive the message through the U.S. Tactical Information Broadcast system. It managed to relay the intelligence to the F-16 flying with O’Grady two to three minutes after O’Grady had been shot down.
It is unclear whether the timely transmission of the information was possible and could have prevented the shootdown.
O’Grady spent six days hiding from the Serbs before being rescued by helicopter-borne U.S. Marines.
A week ago Adm. William O. Studeman, who left as deputy director of the CIA on Friday, said the O’Grady case “amply demonstrated” that “the only thing worse than not having intelligence is having intelligence” that does not reach the people who need it.
Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon declined to comment on the report, which will be shared with members of Congress Tuesday.