Task Force Hawk was the unit constructed and deployed by General Wesley Clark to provide additional support to NATO's Operation Allied Force by NATO operations against the former Yugoslavian government during the 1999 unrest in Kosovo. The task force would operate from the March 1999 when its formation was announced until June 1999 when Slobodan Milošević withdraw the Yugoslavian Army from Kosovo.
Task Force Hawk, which never fired a round, has been hailed as both one of the largest blunders and largest successes by the US Military in recent years. This action has been reviewed and analyzed from every angle to determine what went right and what went wrong.
From a different point of view compared to the person who wrote this. (I was a part of TF Hawk, and we fired many rounds down range. Though most were in self defense from Milosevic supporters. We never really had a chance to engage the enemy because of the Clinton Administration.)
Planning for Task Force Hawk didn't start until March 20, 1999 in Grafenwohr, Germany; even though, the planning for Operation Allied Force had begun in the winter of 1998. Gen Clark and Admiral James O. Ellis, while at the Warfighter Exercise, discussed how to utilize the Apaches to augment the Air Force assets posed to strike in 4 days . The Army's planners would be strapped for time to put together a plan to deploy a mission that had never been employed by an AH-64 Apache unit. Instead of supporting ground troops the Apaches would be supporting Air Force missions. Gen. Clark's vision for the unit was to destroy the Yugoslavian units stationed in Kosovo supporting the Serbian police force. The Yugoslavian units were not formed in the company or battalion sized formations but rather spread out through the countryside. This made acquiring the targets and relaying the information to bomber units who couldn't spot them easily. It was projected that the Apache units would be able to identify and eliminate these targets more efficiently, due to their effectiveness in the first Gulf War. The Apaches would be supported by MLRS units conducting SEAD missions. Gen. Clark's hope was that by eliminating a large enough portion of the Serbian forces would force Yugoslavian government to end the conflict. Gen. Clark would face opposition to this opinion from several members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
By March 22, 1999, the planners would be finished with the initial plans for operation. These plans projected that the forces would be deployed to Macedonia, but the Macedonian government refused to allow offensive NATO operations to be speared from their country. "Army planners in Germany learned the mission would probably be cancelled on the Friday before Easter." Many soldiers would be given their first day off in weeks due to the Warfighter Exercise, hasty redeployment from Grafenwohr, and preparations for deployment on Task Force Hawk; however, on April 3, Gen. Clark would decide to deploy the task force. It was announced on April 4, 1999 by the Department of Defense that Task Force Hawk would be deployed to Albania to assist in Operation Allied Force. The original size of the task force was estimated at 2000 but had to be increase due to the lack of force protection that was present in Macedonia.
Many units would begin the movement to Ramstein Air Base in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany, the main departure point as many of the units were part of V Corps. The airlift was directed by the U.S. Air Force’s Air Mobility Operations Control Center (AMOCC) at the Ramstein Air Base, who was also coordinating the relief effect flights to Rinas. The Air Force would utilize the C-17 Globemaster III instead of C-5 Galaxy to deploy the Task Force to Tirana's Rinas Mother Teresa Airport airfield due to the runaway length, taxiway, and ramp requirements. The short runaway length would not be the only challenge for the deployment at Rinas. Operation Shining Hope was also utilizing the airfield to spearhead the humanitarian effects for the refugees of the war. The limited number of runaways would only allow 20 sorties to be flown in the base per day. It would take 200 sorties to deploy full complement of equipment. Despite this being the first time that the United States Transportation Command "gave a theater tactical control of a significant number of strategic airlift aircraft for a specific deployment",Gen Montegomery C. Meigs later called one of the most successful airlift operations in history."