|Thursday, 14 November 2019|
Transcript - Deliberate Force - Press. Brief. - 11 Sep 95
From: Franco Veltri <email@example.com>
TRANSCRIPT Press Briefing Group Captain Trevor Murray Chief Air Operations AFSOUTH Headquarters NATO Club 1700 11 Dep 95
GROUP CAPTAIN MURRAY: I'm going to brief you on ongoing air operations on "Deliberate Force" and bring you up to date since our last briefing on Saturday afternoon. We started Saturday with some bad weather over Bosnia. And if you look to the chart on my left, you will see that two strike packages were weather aborted. The aircraft got airborne but did not find the target and came back. The bad weather impact continued into the day, but we did have some success from packages Charlie, Delta and Echo. And I will draw your attention to those targets as briefed at previous briefings, covering a range of ammunition plants, storage depots, lines of communication, command and control and communication nodes. Moving on to the following day, the weather had been improving slowly throught the night, continued to improve, and so there was much more success on the 10th. And we started a series of packages throughout that day. Once again, the range of targets was as before. I'll draw your attention to package Delta which was our attack last night on the integrated air defenses. And as part of that package, we launched the 13 Tomahawk missiles, which you have seen coverage of today. We also launched as part of that package, a number of fixed wing aircraft which attacked targets and other elements of the air defense system. Finally, package Echo attacked ammunition plants and a storage facility and also was retargeted against some bridges as additional targets. And then finally moving on to today, the good weather stays with us in the area of operations and as of midday zulu, we had launched packages Alpha and Bravo as indicated against ammunition targets and storage depots. Once again, there was immediate indication of successful targeting of those particular facilities. Highlights, then, on the operations since Saturday - the Tomahawk attack I've already mentioned - and the other elements of that attack on the air defense system -- we have some indication that severe damage was caused to some of those targets. Also during yesterday evening's attack on the air defense system, our aircraft were engaged by radar by the air defense system, and responded by firing a total of five anti-radiation missiles. We had aircraft targeted with shoulder-launched missiles in the Sarajevo area and also encountered anti- aircraft artillery barrages north of Sarajevo. However, despite these attacks, all our aircraft returned
safely and none suffered any damage. Also, as you can see from the charts, we continued the full range of our air operations with close air support, suppression of enemy air defenses, reconnaissance, tankers, early warning aircraft. And we continued the search and rescue operation with respect to the downed French aircraft. We do have a short film clip on five clips to show you today. Once again, illustrating footage of attacks on targets on the 9th of September. We will have copies of that tape available for you and after showing it, I'll be glad to take questions. The first clip shows an attack on a military relay station. And on this first clip, the target is a building on that site, shown in the cross-hairs. And you will see the bombs coming from the left-hand side of the target. The second clip shows the same site, this time the target being the tower, the aerial tower, on the site. Once again, in a moment you will two bombs coming from the left-hand side and strike the tower. This is a film of an F-16 aircraft, attacking another aerial, a relay aerial. You can see the cloud cover. I've been talking about the weather through the 9th and 10th. But not withstanding that cloud cover, you can see that target was struck. Moving on to a bridge. Once again, an F-16 aircraft, coming over the bridge, tracking the target, and a direct hit. And finally, an attack on an ammunition storage area in the Sarajevo area. Once again the target, the bunker in the center of the screen, and the bomb striking the target. As I said, we have copies of that tape available for you. Now I'll gladly take your questions.
NBC: Can you tell us what happened with the technical problems at the last minute just before the launch of the Tomahawk cruise missiles that caused the switch from the USS Monterrey to the USS Normandy?
A: No, I have no information on that at all. My information is that the missiles were launched from the Normandy and I'm not aware of any technical hitch as you described.
AP: I'd like to know why NATO keeps flying back to that Hadzitchi (sp?) area west of Sarajevo. Can you tell what is there and haven't you been able to destroy it with so many runs over the area?
A: It is a very large site and as we explained previously, within certain target categories, in particularly large storage areas like Hadzitchi, we have a number of aim points. And we've been going back to hit a succession of aim points. And partly, because in some cases, the aim points themselves cover a large building and we may not have achieved the level of destruction that we wanted. In other cases, we're simply revisiting the site to attack other aim points. As I said, it's a very large site, a large number of buildings, a large area of storage. 2
AP: Is it one of the largest ones?
A: I'm not going to say whether it's one of the largest or not but it is a very large one.
AFP: The Serbs continue to claim that you (inaudible) kill civilian people with the Tomahawk launching?
A: Yes, we have seen that report. I can only repeat what we have said previously. With respect to the tomahawk launch as with our other operations, we still have no indications that we have caused any significant collateral damage. And collateral and minimizing collateral damage continues to be a very key part of targeting as you know. And indeed the Tomahawk missile is a particularly accurate system. And is used not least because of that aspect of its operational capability.
Reuters: Sir, you said, if I remember you correctly, the Tomahawk attacks caused severe damage. Could you be a little more specific about the strikes?
A: The targets that were part of the integrated air defense system. We were aiming particularly at a number of pieces of that system last night, with the Tomahawk taking some targets and the fixed-wing aircraft taking others. And I wouldn't like to be too specific within the categories that we used either for. But I can say that we do have indications that we caused severe damage to some of those targets.
Q: Does the use of the Tomahawk represent the escalation of operations and are they going to be used again?
A: We don't consider the tomahawk represents an escalation. We have a range of weapons, a range of systems, and a range of capabilities. And the Tomahawk we consider as one element in that armory. We don't consider its use as an escalation and if suitable again, we may well use it again just as may use other elements of our armory.
Q: Can we expect more targets used by civilians like bridges? A: There may well be more bridges, but I can't really go beyond that and say targets used by civilians.
Q: They are also used by civilians.
A: If we're looking at lines of communication, then we may attack bridges, we may attack elements of the communication system, for example, we have attacked communication systems and we're aware that impacts on the civilian telecommunications, for example. So we are aware that some elements of our targeting do impact on the civilian population. But they are not chosen, they're chosen specifically for their military applications.
APTV: Can you give us an idea of when this decision was made 3 to use the Tomahawk? Who made that decision? Was it NATO? The UN? Was it coming from American pressure to use it? How NATO came to that decision to use Tomahawks?
A: There was no particular pressure to use it. From the initiation of contingency planning for this operation, the full potential range of weapons available was considered and the Tomahawk was included in that range of weapons from the onset. It was only decided to use it relatively recently in the circumstances of the days and not least of which was the bad weather that we've encountered and the impact, the high risk posed by the air defense systems to our pilots. We've always had the Tomahawk in our inventory of possible weapons to use.
APTV: Could you be more precise in the past day and a half that you decided to use it or was it a week ago? When did the Tomahawks get there even - to the Adriatic?
A: The decision to use them on this occasion was made within the last week. I don't want to get much more specific than that. But the decision to use them against these specific targets was made within the last week. Consideration, as I say, and potential planning, goes back much further than that. Q: Of the impacts on civilian population, you say it may have a certain impact. Does that mean wounded or killed people? What does that mean?
A: No, I was talking specifically with relation to the sort of civilian targets that your colleague mentioned. If we take out a bridge, that obviously has an effect on people being able to go about their business. If we take out the telephone system, it obviously affects the civilian population's ability to communicate. There is no way in which we would ever take action that would in any way even as a side would risk damaging civilians or injuring civilians. This is the essence of the collateral damage argument that we've discussed before. We will always take the utmost care to minimize the risk of collateral damage, including the damage to civilians. I have to say, as I've said previously, we can never totally eliminate that risk.
AP: As you said that some of the Tomahawks, you have indications that they caused severe damage to the targets. Do you have any indication that any of the Tomahawks did not hit their targets?
A: I can't comment on that. Its an operational matter that I really wouldn't want to comment on, thank you.
Q: Is it true that part of the system was destroyed? Can they still use it - the Serbs - the air defense system?
A: Once again, we're verging on ongoing operational matters. I can say, that its a very sophisticated system with a lot of redundancy in it. And so they still have capability and we 4
still consider it a very distinct threat against our operations. So although we have hit targets within that system, no we do not believe we have destroyed it or removed its capability against us. It still poses a threat and we still have to posture our operations with that high threat in mind.
Q: What attempts are we taking to estimate civilian casualties?
A: We go through an assessment process of every raid we conduct. We get initial in-flight reports and do a detailed assessment after the event based on reconnaissance and a number of other things. One of the elements we are always looking at is collateral damage -- If collateral damage was caused at all and if so, what level of collateral damage, and what the results might have been. And equally, from other sources, we take all source reporting into account. But we do need an element of independence about that reporting. We do need to be able to verify some of that reporting. But we take all aspects into account.
Q: To follow up on that, do we have numbers? Are they available?
A: No, I do not have numbers. I can only go back to the very general statement I made earlier, we have no indication that there have been significant injuries, we have no indication that there was significant collateral damage.
AP: Sir, can we go back to the question of Hadzitchi. Can you tell me what exactly is there because I think you said there was a wide range and I didn't really understand what is there.
A: There is a large ammunition storage area there, but there are also storage facilities for military equipment, a wide range of military equipment. So it,s a combination of targets.
STARS AND STRIPES: Sir, there have been a number of continued reports of movement of the Serb heavy weapons. However, it seems that all that I've heard during the last four or five days is simply that there is movement. Are these guys just moving from one spot to another to another or is there any actual, do you guys see any actual proof that they are beginning to back some of their equipment off?
A: I'll answer the last part first if I may. We have still no indications, no information, that leads us to assess that they are moving their heavy equipment out of the Sarajevo area, that they are backing off in any way. We have seen movement, we have seen reports of movement, and we continue to assess that. There is certainly evidence that they are moving equipment within the area and that may be simply to reposition themselves, to protect themselves, or 5 indeed to give indications that they doing something that they are not. But we watch all of that very closely in coordination with the United Nations and as of now, our assessment is that there has been no significant move out of heavy weapons.
Q: Have we (inaudible) these bombing missions. Have we irrevocably taken sides in this conflict?
A: No we do not believe we've taken sides in this conflict. We believe that we have responded to a very specific situation. You will know that over time, both the UN and NATO have said that we would be forced to take action in certain circumstances. We been, indeed, if you wish, very tolerant over a very long time of the actions of all factions. But the decision, in the particular circumstances of this time, was that there had to be a reaction and there had to be a reaction against the identified offending party. But we don't see that as being partial. We see that, if you like, following through on very clear statements of intent that have been given.
AP: I'd like to know, could we say now that NATO is operating in all of Bosnia or are you still focusing on certain areas? A: We're conducting air operations specifically still in the southeast zone of action that we've talked about before. That's shown on the map on my right here. We are conducting operations against the integrated air defense system, however, throughout all of Bosnia. Because it poses a threat to us throughout all of Bosnia.
AP: Is that still concentrated in the northwest though?
A: No, there are elements of it throughout. We have been concentrating in the northwest area in the last two attacks against that system. But there are elements throughout the country. And indeed, you will remember, our very first attacks were aimed against air defense system targets within the southeast zone. And we have revisited those frequently. Reuters: Excuse me if this is a question that shows my ignorance of things military, but it is written somewhere that there is a lot of ordnance that NATO and the US forces and the NATO forces have that is about to expire. Does ordnance expire? Does it have to be used? And is there some left over from the Gulf War which (inaudible)? Can you comment on that? A: I will be as factual as I can about it without saying that I'm running a bargain basement shop for second-hand ordnance. Ordnance does indeed expire, it has a shelf life in many cases. It depends on a whole range of things. But it has, if you like, a shelf life. And that shelf life is reviewed. And there are systems for either renewing the ordnance or servicing it like you would service your car or indeed disposing of it, if that is what is required. But having said that, that's the purely technical element of shelf life of ordnance. No, there is no suggestion, there is no element 6 anywhere that we are dropping bombs to use up old ordnance. We, as we have said repeatedly, and I'll reemphasize it again, we have no wish to drop one bomb or fire one bullet more than we have to do. We would want this to be over. We would want the Bosnian Serb military to meet the conditions laid upon them and we can bring this to a close as soon as possible. REUTER: How close are they coming to meeting those conditions sir?
A: As I said a few moments ago, we've got no indication of movement of heavy weapons out of the zone. Nor do we have any indication of their intent to meet any of the other requirements. We're aware, and I know you're aware, of talks and ongoing political movements. And we keep in touch with those obviously as we strive to meet our military objective. But as of now, we have no indication that they are moving towards that.
Q: Can you tell us how many Tomahawk missiles are available for the operations? And then can you tell us what is the damage level that you have reached after 13 days of operations, I mean how many munitions, what's the damage level?
A: I can't answer your first question for operation security reasons. I cannot give you numbers of future weapons that we may use. And equally, I cannot get into numbers in terms of percentages of what we have achieved. We've tried to show you that we have a whole range of targets and that we hit quite a number of those targets and we are inflicting severe damage, indeed, on the Bosnian Serb military and to the Bosnian Serb military infrastructure. But I really don't want to characterize it in terms of numbers or percentages because, first it becomes a little meaningless and secondly, in itself, because it perhaps gives an indication of future intention and I can't do that.
AP: I was wondering if the use of the Tomahawk was in any way related to the Scott O'Grady incident and this is kind of an extra precaution since he was shot down in that area?
A: I think you could make a connection in that one of the elements certainly in considering the use of the Tomahawk is that it removes the risk of pilots in particular high risk areas. We can send a Tomahawk missile where we perhaps might not wish to send a pilot or where sending a pilot would expose him to very high risk. So certainly that's one element. Equally, of course, it's fairly impervious to the weather. And you know we have been impacted by weather, so that's another element. But there are many elements. I wouldn't say that there's a direct linkage to Scott O'Grady. But the risk to aircrew is certainly one of the criteria.
Q: Following up on that sir, would it be logical that, at any time, more Tomahawks are used and more air defense systems are taken out, would we get to the point where we would be using 7 fewer Tomahawks and there would be more planes back in there? This is also an economic question. These babies apparently cost 1.5 million each.
A: This is an economic question, yes, but I can't say we will do what you just said, I equally wouldn't say we won't. We retain the capability of doing a range of things with a range of weapons and Tomahawk is just one item in that inventory. But yes, if we get to the stage where we assess that we have eliminated the threat from the air defense system, then it changes our range of options and our potential way of operating, obviously.
Q: I'll just ask you again, how long can we continue on with this?
A: I can't give you a number of days, a number of months, or what ever. We will continue until we reach our objective is all I can say. We have got considerable scope at this time to continue the operation.
Q: WE HAVE A REMOTE QUESTION COMING IN HERE THAT SEEKS TO FIND OUT WHAT IS REQUIRED IN THE WAY OF POLITICAL APPROVAL TO GO BEYOND THE EASTERN ZONE OF ACTION, MOVE INTO THE NORTHWEST ZONE OF ACTION?
A: Our process, at the moment, has given us authority to do a range of activities that we have agreed. In other words, to conduct attacks against targets in the southeast zone of action and to conduct attacks against air defense targets throughout the area of operations. To move beyond that would require further authorization.
Q: Have you, getting back to the economics, has there been any pressure whatsoever from NATO taxpayers of what this is going to cost NATO countries, particularly now as we are sending out bombs that cost 1.5 million each?
A: No, not at all.
Q: Can I ask you a question about have you sought or do you intend to seek or are you in the process of seeking any further authorization of which you spoke of?
A: I'm not going to answer anything about future operations at this point. You wouldn't expect me to.