Capt. Scott F. O’Grady, the pilot of the U.S. F-16 downed over Bosnia six days ago, was found in good condition in northwestern Bosnia on today and rescued by U.S. Marines.
O’Grady, of Spokane, was picked up 20 miles southeast of Bihac, said Adm. Leighton Smith, the commander in chief of NATO forces, southern Europe.
U.S. forces were searching for the pilot since his plane was shot down Friday over Serb-controlled territory. The Pentagon says a Serb SA-6 missile slammed into its belly, cutting the plane in half.
On Monday, the Pentagon disclosed that it had picked up intermittent signals that may have been coming from the pilot’s emergency homing beacon.
O’Grady, 29, was rescued about 6 a.m. (9 p.m. Wednesday PDT), Defense Secretary William Perry said in Brussels, Belgium, where he is at a meeting with NATO foreign ministers.
Rescuers had received a single Morse code transmission from him late Tuesday afternoon, Perry’s spokesman, Ken Bacon, said.
After a positive identification, Smith ordered a Marine team and CH-53 and Cobra helicopters into the air from the USS Kearsarge in the Adriatic. They were escorted by F-18s and electronic warfare planes.
As he entered NATO headquarters in Brussels with Perry, Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said of the pilot: “I am told that he is well, that he has a six-day beard and that he has a small burn on the back of his neck as a result of exiting the aircraft.”
Smith said O’Grady might have
ejected from the plane but he could not confirm that. The pilot was picked up by helicopter and was being flown to the USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship with a 600-bed hospital.
Considine said the rescue team did not encounter any opposition.O’Grady is assigned to the 555
Fighter Squadron, Aviano Air Base, Italy. A Serb missile blew apart his fighter jet as he flew a mission in NATO’s operation Deny Flight, which bars flights over Bosnia as part of U.N. sanctions.
“All Americans rejoice with me at the successful rescue of Capt. Scott O’Grady tonight and join his parents in their relief after days of uncertainty and anguish,” President Clinton said early today. “Captain O’Grady’s bravery and skill are an inspiration.”