Did a NATO Spy Help Serbs Down Stealth Jet?

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Tales of treachery at the heart of NATO could help restore a downed stealth fighterís bruised reputation, but the story may be less than the sum of its parts. NATO has reportedly arrested a spy within its command structure who allegedly passed on sensitive information that allowed Yugoslavia to down an F-117 stealth fighter in March, according to a report in the Scotsman newspaper. Unnamed NATO sources told the paper that a financially motivated turncoat had sold Russian intelligence agents some of the allianceís Kosovo battle plans, including "detailed flight plans" for the F-117 on the day it was shot down. The Russians immediately passed the information on to the Serbs, who scored their most important propaganda victory of the war in downing the supposedly undetectable plane. The spy was reportedly arrested days later, and is still being held in secret according to military rules.

Compelling though the story may be, it could be a case of adding two and two and getting five. "Elements of this story may be true, but they donít all fit together in a causal explanation," says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "Flight plans arenít usually that explicit. And the U.S. wasnít sharing information on raids by stealth aircraft with its NATO allies. Pentagon thinking was that the Serbs had been filling the sky with anti-aircraft fire and unguided missiles, and they simply got lucky. Thereís no doubt that information was being passed along to the Serbs, but itís a long way from there to say that this is how the stealth fighter was downed." And thatís a pity for the aircraftís manufacturer, since the spy explanation would certainly restore the F-117ís "invisible" reputation.