DoD News Briefing - Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
Thursday, April 20, 2000 - 2:00 p.m. EDT
(Also participating in this briefing was Lieutenant General Fred McCorkle, deputy chief of staff for Aviation, Headquarters Marine Corps and Director of Compensation, Captain Elliot Bloxom, USN, Director of Compensation, Force Management Policy Office)
MR. BACON: The Marines have landed again. We are going to start the briefing with Lieutenant General Fred McCorkle, who is the assistant chief of staff for Marine Aviation. And he is going to talk about the Osprey, bring you up to date on where that stands, and take some of your questions. And then we'll swing into the rest of the briefing.
GEN. MCCORKLE: Thanks very much. Good to see you all again.
I brought my book. As I said, I don't read very much, but I brought it for my notes anyway. As I promised you all the last time I was here, that I would give you an update whenever we had information that we thought would be useful to you, to pass on.
And I would ask you once again to respect the fact that some of the details of the investigation -- I am going to talk a little bit about the JAG part, since we have two different investigations going on, one which is made public and the other one, the Mishap Board, which is kept private. I do get some information in daily contact with the JAG guys out in Yuma. I have visited Yuma, and I'll talk a little bit about that too, as we go through.
As you know, certain details of this are kept closed to the public and to myself for that matter, and that maintains the integrity of the investigation and avoids any speculation. I would ask you, as I give you bits and pieces of information -- and I'll talk about that as we go through -- that you wouldn't speculate or say, "Okay, he has covered this amount of stuff, so this must have caused the accident." But I'll tell you about everything that I know on the accident.
I can assure you that we are doing everything that we can to make sure that the cause of the accident is found out and that our Marines and sailors and Air Force that fly this airplane are all going to learn from this misfortune and accident and that our safety record on this will be one of the better ones in the Department of Defense.
When I went out to Yuma and viewed the wreckage, I walked through it, they had it laid out. The commandant came by a day after, when he was out on the West Coast for one of the memorial services, and I can tell you that he has also viewed the wreckage and gone through and talked to some of the engineers out there.
The information that I can tell you that has made -- was given to me by the JAG and by the Safety Center, Rear Admiral Darrin, who has been really a superstar in working with us and saying, "This you can give to the press," you know. "Yes, we think that this should be public knowledge," or whatever. The propellers were turning at the time of impact. The driveshaft appeared to be operating normally and intact at the time of impact. The engines were running, certainly above idle, at the time of impact, and the cells, as I told you the last time and now I've viewed them, they were in the helicopter mode, in the full helicopter mode.
And we are expecting information from the CSMU data soon, which is a flight data recorder that's on board, and I can tell you that there is information on the flight data recorder. They are beginning to download it much earlier than we though they would; however, those of you that are the experts in this area, like I said before, we've got pluses and minuses. All the information that we get out, and we don't get it in words or whatever; it's pluses and minuses, dots and dashes, and then the engineers have to take and put it together, and it's a segment of about one and a half seconds, each one of these segments, and then they have to piece it together like a puzzle. And if you want the name of it again, the Craft Survivable Memory Unit, or the CSMU, that I'd talked about. That was delivered to Pax River for interpretation, and then this information is being turned over to the Mishap Board and the Naval Safety Center.
There is no set time right now for when that process is going to be complete, but I can tell you that the Safety Center and everyone else, including the companies involved in the flight data recorder and other things have worked through the weekend, and they've really gone out of their way to support the Marine Corps and the families of our Marines.
The components of the aircraft have been identified -- I've got in my notes here, "will be identified;" they have been identified -- and already I understand that the engines have gone out, and even though we know that they were running above idle, we plan on doing an engineering investigation on all the major components, to include the driveshaft, to include the rotors, and to include the engines.
We remain confident -- very, very confident -- in the Osprey and its abilities and its ability to fly and function. And as we talked about before, when I talked about this technology, you know, as a leap ahead, we're in the operational evaluation, not a test mode. And we feel like, when we get back in the air, that we'll have all the confidence in the world in the airplane.
We plan on -- as some of you asked, "When will you be flying again," and I said I think in the very near future, the last time I was down here, we are still doing this as a phased approach. As you know, right now we're doing ground taxis, engine run-ups, turning the rotors, so on and so forth.
And then when General Jones feels comfortable, the commandant, with the data that we've received from the flight data recorder and the engineers out there on scene, then he'll say -- he'll be the one that gives the go-ahead to go fly from the operational pause.
And we plan on really doing this in a phased approach. And I've talked to the Pax River guys. I've talked to Vice Admiral "Spider" Lockard. And even though the Marine Corps don't in fact own the test airplanes or the EMD airplanes that are out at Pax River right now, there are still two EMD airplanes that were test articles, and they will remain test articles as long as we're flying them. And we have two of those. They will be the first ones that fly with test pilots on board. Then we'll go back to the operational airplanes without passengers. And then we'll fly the MV-22 with passengers. And the commandant has expressed his very strong desires to be on the first airplane that flies passengers, when they go back in the air. He's also given the okay for me, if he don't have me busy doing some other things, that I plan on being on the same airplane with him.
With that, I'll end and stand by to answer any of the questions that you all have.
Q: I have two questions. The first one is, I realize that we're very early into the investigation, and you only have very preliminary information. But at this stage, based on what you know now, is there any indication of a mechanical malfunction with the aircraft?
GEN. MCCORKLE: At this stage, there is no indication of a mechanical malfunction. However, with the information I passed before, we're still looking at all the software, and hopefully we'll get from the flight data recorder what was happening with the software during this period of time. We're also looking at all the actuators on the airplane.
So I would ask, out of respect for the families and everything else, that no one goes away and says, "because there was nothing mechanical, there had to be a human factor," because we're still looking at all three; we're still looking at maintenance, we're looking at mechanical, and we're looking at human factor.
Q: And again, just -- because I understand that you've not come to any conclusion here, but just to say, are there any early indicators or any information at this point in the investigation that would indicate there was pilot error?
GEN. MCCORKLE: There are not. No, sir.
Q: You raised the question I was going to ask you, and that was about the software. How much does this aircraft rely on software more than just conventional helicopters or aircraft do?
GEN. MCCORKLE: Well, it relies more on software than the conventional helicopter. I don't think that it relies as much on software as an F-22 or as an F-18E/F, either one certainly, which I think have many more lines of code, or whatever, in the software. But from someone that flew the CH-46 in Vietnam, and I've seen the steps as you go along, where we have an automatic flight control system with the inputs and so on and so forth in there, it is better. And as we move forward, it's much, much better than the CH-46, as far as the software is concerned.
Q: Have you ever had any instance where you had software glitches, which caused problems in flying these aircraft?
GEN. MCCORKLE: Not to my knowledge. But I will tell you that when we did the ship pause in the MV-22, and we had one nacelle hanging out over the end of the ship, which is 60, 80 feet above the water, that when the pilot did a pilot-induced movement, he felt like that the wing dipped too much. And we went in, did tests in the simulator and adjusted that software. And that was back on one of the test airplanes.
Q: General --
GEN. MCCORKLE: Or at least I think that that was on one of the EMD airplanes. I couldn't swear to that. So --
Q: I'm sorry. He lost lift under -- on one side --
GEN. MCCORKLE: He had one --
GEN. MCCORKLE: He had one nacelle over, and one here, and when he put in a pilot-induced movement, it went more than he wanted it to go, so that we fixed that. And actually, the way that they fixed it was where you couldn't slam the airplane over in one direction or another.
Q: Because this airplane was developed with a lot of computer simulation, as most of the improvements are, is it part of your safety, of the accident investigation going to be running information you get off the data recorder into the simulator to try to duplicate the conditions?
GEN. MCCORKLE: We're attempting to do that now. We've had an offer from NASA, which I've passed on to the Mishap Board, to utilize their simulator. We are also utilizing the simulator and the engineers at Pax River, who have gone out of their way to be helpful to us.
Q: So at this point, you're just -- you're trying to duplicate what should have been the normal mission to see if anything pops up to indicate that something could have gone wrong, or -- because at this stage, you don't have the information from the flight data recorder to give you the technical input --
GEN. MCCORKLE: That's correct.
Q: You're just basically duplicating the standard mission that he was flying?
GEN. MCCORKLE: The standard mission that he's flying. Once we get information from the flight data recorder, what we would like to do is to put that into the computer and fly it in the simulator and see what we can find out from there.
Q: In the first accident at Quantico, they lost power on the right engine and the driveshaft that would have transferred the power broke. But you are saying, though, there's no indication that that was duplicated, right? That the driveshaft was --
GEN. MCCORKLE: We're getting ready to go back to my notes on previous mishaps, but there's no indication on this one. There's no indication; that doesn't mean that the engineering investigation won't find something there, but there's no indication that anything on the driveshaft malfunctioned.
Q: Just one piece of clarification on the accident itself. The number one airplane, the one that did not crash, was moving forward, you said, probably at about 30 knots. Was the second aircraft dead still, or was it also moving forward at some slow speed, as near as the eyewitnesses can figure?
GEN. MCCORKLE: I will sort of speculate on that, although no one has told me exactly, but the crash site was in an area of about four feet by 10 feet, and you could probably put it in this room. So my guess is that when the aircraft went in nose-down, that there was very little, if any, forward movement.
Q: What can you tell us about the pilots? I've heard that one pilot was essentially fixed-wing background and experience. The other one was a helicopter-experienced pilot. Do we at this stage know which was the handling pilot?
GEN. MCCORKLE: The Mishap Board probably knows who the handling pilot was at this stage. I think that the individual that signed for the airplane was flying it. I'd rather not speculate on that in this environment, but I can tell you that one of the pilots was a KC-130 pilot. The other was a -53 pilot.
And both these individuals, since I attended two funerals, and two grave-side visits here, everyone that talked about both of these pilots could say nothing but good things about them. And at the eulogies, the majority of the individuals that flew with them said that the KC-130 pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Brow, was probably the best pilot in the squadron.
Q: Who was actually the one who signed the aircraft out and would have been "handling pilot"?
GEN. MCCORKLE: It is my opinion that Lieutenant Colonel Brow is the guy who signed the aircraft out.
Q: (Inaudible) -- pilot?
GEN. MCCORKLE: Yes.
Q: Since the plane was in helicopter or full helicopter mode at the time of the crash, does that mean that the transition between the plane to helicopter mode was not a problem?
GEN. MCCORKLE: That's correct.
Q: Okay. So you have ruled that out?
GEN. MCCORKLE: I can tell you that 100 percent. And I thought you were going to say, "When did he go in?" He could have gone in two miles out. I am not sure; because you can do that at any time. And I have read things -- as I have brought up to you all before -- about the visibility was really tough out of the MV-22 and particularly when you raised the nose on final. Once again, you don't raise the nose on final; you know, the nacelles move, so the nose remains completely steady in there. But he was in the full helicopter mode.
Q: You said that there is no indication of pilot error at this point, no indication of mechanical problem at this point. You didn't say anything about maintenance. How do you investigate that?
GEN. MCCORKLE: Yeah, I did; I thought I did. But if I didn't, we are looking at mechanical, maintenance and human factors.
Q: Any information on a maintenance problem yet?
GEN. MCCORKLE: No, no. Absolutely not.
Q: And how do you -- do you need to look at the wreckage for that, or is it simply a review of records?
GEN. MCCORKLE: Well, it's a review of records and also the wreckage.
Let's say that on an aircraft -- and this one did not have it, so please don't speculate or write it -- but, say, an aircraft had an engine removed, you know, and had work done on it, and would go out and crash. Then we would say that would certainly be something that we would zero in on or whatever. But we have no major maintenance things that we were looking at on this airplane or no major things that were changed. And right now, we are not ruling anything out. We are looking at all three still.
Q: There was a report about possible prop wash from the Osprey in front of it, being a contributing factor. Can you say anything about that? Does that make sense to you?
GEN. MCCORKLE: We talked a little bit about that the last time.
And I can tell you that a prop wash you have from many aircraft, from a 53 Echo a lot to even a Huey or a Cobra, and you certainly have the turbulence from a fixed-wing airplane when he comes in to land.
I don't know exactly where the bubble is on the MV-22, but I can tell you that both these individuals were very experienced in flying with other airplanes, you know, and they had done the hard stuff out on the ship, where you landed behind another Osprey or took off behind another Osprey. And so whether or not they had a problem with turbulence, I couldn't speculate.
Q: Wasn't the crash higher than the lead Osprey, which would have minimized prop wash problems?
GEN. MCCORKLE: That's -- when the co-pilot saw him, and he was moving into position, he was higher than the aircraft. For those of you that know and were here before, when the aircraft hit, the lead aircraft was about 30 feet. So how fast he went down I don't know. What his altitude was when he went down I don't know. But anyway, he hit the ground before the lead airplane hit the ground.
Q: But he was higher at the time the -- when the plane -- the crew chief saw him and -- going into his nose -- into the dive, he was higher than the lead aircraft?
GEN. MCCORKLE: I talked to both crew members -- both the crew chief and the observer that were on the lead airplane when I was out there. And I think that it's really up in the air, you know, that when we walk out of here, someone will say, "Well, the gentleman that asked you the question, you know, in a blue coat and red tie" -- I won't have a clue what you had on. I think what the crew chief does is he looks back, he sees that the aircraft is back there, and he's back there, you know, where he ought to be. And I think that the next time that he looked, and the aircraft was going into the ground and exploded -- what you look for, when you look back, is just to make sure that the aircraft is there. And I don't think you look to see whether he's 5 degrees, nose up, or exactly what altitude he is.
Q: Have you eliminated weather or any climate conditions -- wind shear, some sort of fluke or anomaly? Has that been eliminated from the --
GEN. MCCORKLE: That's been eliminated, I think, from the people that were on the ground. The winds were calm. You had 20 miles' visibility, which means that it was probably about 70 miles out in the desert and 25,000-foot scattered -- so -- for clouds. So I don't think weather was any factor.
Q: So your only options, really, are pilot error, mechanical failure, or some sort of maintenance issue. I mean --
GEN. MCCORKLE: Yes, sir. That's correct.
Q: And you have no evidence at this point that points you in one direction or another?
GEN. MCCORKLE: No evidence that points us in one direction or another. That's correct.
Except for the things that I've told you that we know were running at the time that the aircraft impacted the ground, and we have no arrows pointed to anything right now.
Q: Which suggests that the major systems, at least, were operating properly at the time?
GEN. MCCORKLE: That's correct.
Q: As an experienced helicopter pilot, aerodynamically, is it easy to nose a helicopter over or does that imply some catastrophic situation occurring?
GEN. MCCORKLE: No, it's very easy to nose a helicopter over. And when I was out in Yuma, I just flew five hours out there during the Weapons and Tactics course, and I can assure you that it's very easy to nose an airplane over or to raise it up, whether it's a fixed wing or a helicopter.
Q: Have you eliminated the Night Vision Goggles as a potential contributor?
GEN. MCCORKLE: I don't think -- as I said before, I think that the Night Vision Goggles, if anything, were a benefit and a real plus benefit. With the ANVIS-9s, which I've only been privileged to wear those things three times, and for somebody with a lot of hours on Night Vision Goggles, it is truly like night and day. And like I said, it's whether you want to have 20-40 vision or 20-400 vision. And I think, if anything, that the goggles really enhanced what these guys were doing all the way.
Q: General, you talked about the phased approach you're going to take to flying the V-22 again. Can you talk a little bit about getting back to the operational evaluation tests, what steps you have to go through to do that? And whose call is that? Is that the Marines or is it the Navy test -- (off mike)?
GEN. MCCORKLE: The operational evaluation has not stopped in any way shape, form or fashion. In fact, the team is out there; they're doing some of that stuff right now that they're doing on the ground or that they can do for taxi or how they park the airplane or how they fold the airplane or whatever else. So nothing has stopped on the OP EVAL of the aircraft.
The commandant of the Marine Corps will be the one that says, okay, we start flying again. And the day that we start flying the operational airplanes will be when it starts again.
And to follow up on that, as far as we're concerned right now, you know, if we don't have a major delay here, the OP EVAL will stay right on schedule. We don't see any slip in it.
GEN. MCCORKLE: Yes, sir?
Q: Just, can you talk a little bit about how the public can be assured about the integrity of the investigation? No doubt you're aware of the suspicions of some family members, even some members of the general public, that there might be an incentive for the Marine Corps to blame this crash on pilot error in order to avoid any delays in this production of this program.
Can you talk a little bit about how people can be assured that this is an investigation with integrity?
GEN. MCCORKLE: Yeah, I'd almost be blunt there and say that -- you know, and particularly for you-all, when you talk to me in here, when you talk about integrity, and you talk about the Marines, and I think Marines have as much integrity as anybody around. And the press gives us more credit for integrity than anybody around.
And I think that the families, unfortunately, that have felt like -- and the people that have said, "Hey, were these guys being used as guinea pigs on a test airplane or whatever" -- they were being fed some misinformation from somewhere along the line.
I will tell you that I've talked to the fathers of some of these fallen Marines, and to the wives and to the children, and I have not found one -- every single one of them said, "My son or my husband died doing what he wanted to do for his country, you know." And as far as they're concerned, they did die for their country. They didn't want them to die. They wanted them to live to be 90 years old, you know, flying airplanes for the Marine Corps. But I haven't found a single person that blames the Marine Corps or has questioned their integrity in any way.
I have read several things from several people, but I sure haven't heard it from any of the families. And I've talked to a lot of them.
Q: Well, just to be clear, though, how can the public be assured that if the evidence in this investigation turns out to be somehow inconclusive, there won't be a tendency to blame the crash on pilot error, so that there are no delays in the production of this aircraft?
GEN. MCCORKLE: I think -- and when I talked to you-all before in here -- that the methods that we have today for all mishaps, whether you're talking about a commercial airplane or whether you're talking about a military aircraft, and you have so many people involved from the outside, if -- no matter how much money you have, I don't think that you could ever cover up, with all the engineers from Boeing, the engineers from Bell, the engineers from the Safety Center, the engineers from Pax River. And you have at least 100 subject matter experts involved in this, and I think every one of them is going to know what's going on, you know, from start to finish, all the way from human factors to mechanical to the maintenance records and everything else.
And those, when you look at the JAG investigation, that is going to be, you know, Freedom of Information or whatever after it's complete. I understand that they have a time limit on this thing of under two months, that it will be complete. And so I think this is probably going to be the most open process that you could see anywhere in the U.S.
Q: Sir, could I just go back to the data that you have already? You mentioned that the power was -- at least on the aircraft -- was it increasing? Do we know was it increasing or decreasing, from the parameters you have got right now?
GEN. MCCORKLE: Yeah. The only thing what we can tell from the engineer is, when the engines go off, where the engineering analysis is, that both of the engines were running above idle. With the data that we're getting from the flight data recorder, I can tell you, they will be able to tell you exactly where the engines were, you know; whether they were at 90 percent, 92 percent or whatever, which is something -- I have never been involved in any accident on any helicopter that the Marine Corps owned where we could tell that, you know, with -- could point positive proof as to say, "Here is what you have." And we'll be able to see that, I think, on this aircraft.
Q: But we don't know anything about that trend right now?
GEN. MCCORKLE: That's correct.
Q: I wanted to make sure you could summarize. Now at this point, all the major systems on the airplane appeared to be working; and they have been ruled out as causing -- as a factor? Or are they still suspect, but at this point it looks like they were all operating properly?
GEN. MCCORKLE: Now, I think what you could say is that at this stage, nothing has been ruled out; but at the time of impact, that the engines, the drive shaft, the rotors and all the major things were working, as advertised, on the airplane. But none of that has been ruled out as being part of the cause or whatever else.
We're saying that the engines were running above idle. I just answered this gentleman's question; we don't know exactly where they were running, but we'll be able to determine that as soon as we download.
Q: General McCorkle, any history of bird strikes on that airfield, in that region?
GEN. MCCORKLE: Not that I know of, and I have flown out there a lot. In fact, I lived three years of my life out there and spent a lot of time out flying at night and during the day, and I've never had a bird strike.
I've had a lot of them on the East Coast.
Q: Can you guess in terms of days or months or weeks when the information is going to be available from the recorder?
GEN. MCCORKLE: I would say it would be less than weeks.
Q: I want to ask you again about -- I asked you last time about the Harrier maneuver, the bow maneuver, to the crowd, that it is -- the Marine Corps doesn't allow regular pilots to do that. They will allow test pilots to do it, and the reason being that you're using so much power to stay hovering that you have marginal control for other maneuvers, and if you got going down at too high a rate, you wouldn't be able to pull it out before you struck. Now, is there any comparable situation when the V-22 is in full hover that you have marginal lateral -- or marginal control to correct, nose-down or nose- up?
GEN. MCCORKLE: My personal opinion on the MV-22 is that you would have at least 10 times more power to correct any maneuver like that than you would in a CH-46, an airplane that I have a lot of experience in, or a Cobra or a Huey. The MV-22 has a great, great deal of power, so I don't see that as pushing the nose over or up, and I don't see the pilot doing that, you know, as he's coming in to land, because, like I said, what you operate is the nacelles, and the pilot, the attitude of the aircraft itself, stays about the same.
Q: Since at least the mid-'80s, the Marines and the contractors have talked about the crashworthiness of the Osprey. If you look at the -- (inaudible) -- they talk about the anti- -- (inaudible) -- nose, they talk about the seats that could stand a lot of G-force and the wings that would break off in the event of an accident, moving the fuel away from the fuselage. Obviously, nobody survived here. What does that say about the much-vaunted crashworthiness? Did it fall at an angle and at a height that those attributes just wouldn't have helped, or what?
GEN. MCCORKLE: The MV-22, from tests, is determined to be seven times as survivable as the CH-46. I can tell you that any aircraft that you take and you have it straight nose-down at the ground and it impacts the ground, whether it's a helicopter or fixed-wing or an Osprey, it's going to be really tough to survive. And that is not meant to be a glib answer, and I have a list of all the things, you know, that the MV-22 does that a regular helicopter doesn't do, you know, from G-forces to everything else, but once you land with a, let's say above 50 Gs, then it's going to be really tough to survive.
Q: Last Tuesday you said the plane would return to flight in the "near future." The near future has come and gone and now there's a "phased" approach. What's happened in terms of the thinking of the Corps that you're pulling back from in the "near future" it's going to return to flight?
GEN. MCCORKLE: Well, I think that the near future has not come and gone, unless you were in the stock market last week -- (laughter) -- and then it might be come and gone. But -- and when I came down here last week, I still said that we were taxiing the airplanes now, then; that we were going to do Pax River and the AST tests, or whatever, and then go back to the operational flying.
I believe that the commandant of the Marine Corps -- and for anyone that did go to one of those memorial services, you could see that he was really, really touched. And a losing a Marine is near and dear to all of us. And I think that the commandant, and myself, and everyone else involved wants to say, hey, if we have this flight data and it's being downloaded, you know, and we know that there's data on there, then we owe it to our Marines and to the families and everyone else to see what's on that data, you know. And like in determining that the engines were still running or that the props were still running vice running back and jumping in the airplane the next day, which we do a lot of times in the other airplanes, like when we lost our 46 and we didn't stop flying the 46. But this was one of our first operational airplanes. We want to make sure that we owe it to our Marines and to the families to say, hey, if there is something off of this flight data recorder that would help us do things better, that we look at it before we go back.
Q: General, if we think about what this means for OP EVAL, and we take into consideration that we don't know what the cause is right now, what -- is there a minimum delay that we could be seeing in the OP EVAL program?
GEN. MCCORKLE: Well, we have to be done with OP EVAL, as most of you-all know, by June the 30th. And OP EVAL is complete in June, unless someone gives some sort of a waiver in there. So where we're headed, we did very, very well on the boat; we'd done very, very well up until this tragedy. So I do not see a problem with OP EVAL.
Q: Have you put together any statistics comparing the mishap rate with the V-22's flight hours to any other aircraft maybe in the same level of development -- (off mike)?
GEN. MCCORKLE: No, I haven't. And about us pointing fingers at other airplanes down the line, I would say when someone talks about the V-22 accident rate, or whatever, we have flown the MV-22 for eight years since the last accident, and that is a long period of time. And when somebody says, "Well, you know, you've lost test articles, you know, when you first started flying the MV-22," that's correct. But we've been flying the MV-22 for eight years, and really on a shoestring a lot of times.
Now we've got the operational airplane out there, and eight years is a long time to be flying any airplane without an accident.
Q: The first aircraft that had the hard landing -- your people were checking it to see if there was any damage. Was there?
GEN. MCCORKLE: There was not. We downloaded the VSLED -- don't ask me what that means -- (scattered laughter) -- but these experts will tell you what that stands for [Vibration, Structural Life, and Engine Diagnostic]. From rate per minute landing, you know, or whatever else, they've examined the airplane, as we have all the MV-22s. We found nothing wrong with any of those aircraft.
Now if we go out and someone says, "Okay, we're going to start flying that airplane, and we have to do some work on it," that will be -- end up being ordinary maintenance, because the aircraft was fine after it was examined or whatever else.
Q: Was there -- do you at what altitude it did slam the ground from?
GEN. MCCORKLE: I think that he was about 30 feet, from what we understand, when he went in and did a hard landing on the ground. I wouldn't say -- I wouldn't use the word "slam," because --
Q: Well, it wasn't a free fall. It was more of a --
GEN. MCCORKLE: No. And he rolled about 150 feet, so I would personally call that a running landing, whether it was a good one or not. I wasn't in the airplane. But he rolled about 150 feet.
Q: And the two planes were how far apart when they were --
GEN. MCCORKLE: From -- I've asked that question about 10 times myself --
Q: Can you tell us --
GEN. MCCORKLE: From the crash impact to the tire marks where the first airplane touched down, depending on who you talk to, there's somewhere around 60 to 70 yards between those two. So I figure that they're -- depending on how far he blew the aircraft off the ground cushion or the air cushion, that they had probably at least 150 feet between them.
Q: Did you say before that they were supposed to be maintaining a thousand-feet separation?
GEN. MCCORKLE: I said -- and I'm glad you asked that, because the entire pad was thousand feet by 300 feet. When they fly in this combat formation, they're usually a thousand feet back until they move into position to land. And I would guess that when he was coming in to land, that he was probably looking to land 200 feet behind the lead airplane.
Q: So he was overrunning. He may have been overrunning.
GEN. MCCORKLE: No, I absolutely didn't say that. I said that he's -- that I would suspect that he would land about 200 feet behind the lead airplane. And I'm not sure what his distance was when he impacted, but from the crash site to the skid marks from where the first airplane touched down was about somewhere over 150 feet.
Q: The first airplane -- could that have moved considerably before it touched down?
GEN. MCCORKLE: For someone with a lot of experience in a lot of different airplanes, I would doubt -- and it would be really hard to speculate, but I would doubt that he moved more than 50 feet.
And I haven't talked to either of those pilots because that information is going to the Mishap Board. I think it will also go to the JAG Board. And I'll attempt to get that information from the JAG, if you want it, and feed it back to you.
MR. BACON: Thank you, sir.
Q: Thank you, General.
MR. BACON: Okay. I'll take your questions on any topic, except the Osprey.
Q: Can you give us some reaction to yesterday's report on -- from the Commission on National Security, particularly the misgivings about the two-theater-wars approach?
MR. BACON: Well, as you know, this report is part of a process. And the next part, we expect them to get more specific about what their recommendations are. But let me just say that they are trying to come up with some new ideas and new programs for the new century, and we are in favor of that.
We right now believe that the two-war strategy is the appropriate strategy. Remember, this is -- it talks about capabilities. And what we want to have is the ability to fight in one theater and fight in the second theater, nearly simultaneously if possible. And the reason we want to do that -- we want to have that capability is to deter exactly that type of situation. We don't want an enemy to believe that we are only a one-theater country, that we can be tied up in one area without enough punch to defend our interests someplace else. And that's the theory behind the two-MTW strategy.
Q: So you would --
MR. BACON: Go ahead.
Q: -- you would disagree that -- I think the way they worded it was, "It's not" -- following this approach isn't providing -- I guess they meant "training" or "any other capabilities that could be" -- "that you'd need for other contingencies."
MR. BACON: Well, as I read the report -- and they should really speak for themselves -- but as I read the report, what they are saying is we need more than a two-MTW strategy. And I think we have more than that. I think we have well-trained forces.
And we have shown that these forces are able to do a number of things. They are able to serve superbly as peacekeepers in Kosovo and Bosnia. They are able to provide presence around the world. And our forces have clearly shown that they have a very strong deterrent capability, and they have clearly shown that they are able to fight, when called upon to do so.
We've shown that in the -- we showed that in the Gulf during Desert Storm, and we've showed it in Kosovo, and we've showed it during Desert Fox, a number of operations.
So I think that the next step, and they would agree, is for them to sit down and become more specific about their recommendations and to come up with plans and capabilities and a way to reach those capabilities in their next report. And they plan to do that.
Q: Ken, do you have any comment or position on the commission's notion that the Defense Department should carve out a portion of its force structure, or that perhaps a new entity or agency should be created that is recruited, trained and equipped solely and exclusively to deal with these operations other than war, peace- keeping, humanitarian missions?
MR. BACON: Well, that's been suggested in the past. It's not something we've chosen to do. I'm not aware of any plans with the Department to do that. We have limited funds, and we have a limited force. And we have to train this force to do as much as possible. I think we have been able to -- I think we've demonstrated the benefits of using very well disciplined, well trained soldiers in a variety of operations, whether it's peace-keeping or war or presence or deterrence. That's worked well so far. It's something that a new administration may want to look at. In this administration, it hasn't been something that we thought made good economic sense or good tactical sense in the terms of producing a force that can defend the United States' interests in a variety of ways.
Q: Just to follow up, Newt Gingrich suggested yesterday at that news conference that the constant swinging of the pendulum from the peace-keeping missions, and then having to go back to the home base and spend three, four, five months of rigorous training, honing the war-fighting skills, that constant churning effect is what's demoralizing a lot of the troops and leading them to get out of the military, that a lot of them say they didn't sign up for these kinds of missions, that they're not happy doing those kinds of missions, even though they do them well when called upon.
MR. BACON: They do them well. And there's a high reenlistment rate from people serving in Bosnia. It's the highest -- one of the highest in the services today, in a sense because soldiers like to be active, they like to be engaged, and they found that peace-keeping is a way to be active and engaged.
I think what they -- what some soldiers have complained about are the long deployments and periods away from home. It's not so much what they do once they get over there.
But to go back to your first question about whether there should be a separate peace-keeping force, this administration has made no secret of the fact that we believe there should be a much stronger international police capability. A lot of what our forces have been called upon to do in Kosovo in particular are tasks that should be more reasonably assigned to police.
And there is an international police force there of about 2,000 people. The U.N. itself says that it would like to have a police force of more than 4,000 people. So there is work to be done in the field of international policing and law enforcement. That's a lot of what's happening in Kosovo today, and we certainly support efforts to develop an international police force that can take over many of these tasks that our troops are doing.
The fact of the matter is that military forces will always be able to deploy more quickly and more robustly than any other type of force. That's why they're called upon to go into these missions. The question is how do you design and effect a reasonable and quick transition to other types of forces that may be more appropriate to the police type of work that has to be done.
Q: Because the Defense Department is so often the first ones in, would it not behoove them to work harder on helping transition to where they can leave and leave a credible force on the ground?
MR. BACON: Yes, it would. And this is something that the administration has been spending much more time on. I think the whole question of transition is one that the military certainly would like to effect more quickly, and I think the whole U.S. government would like to effect more quickly. The fact of the matter is, though, that militaries do have regular funding, they do have standing forces and, therefore, they can move more quickly. It takes awhile to gear up an international police force, to recruit it, train it, and get it deployed. And in the case of Kosovo, everybody agrees -- the U.N., the United States, NATO, the European Union -- that this has taken longer than it should.
Q: Is there anything new on the Russian tanker?
MR. BACON: No. Let me -- the Russian tanker is -- we're still evaluating that and working on a resolution. Let me point out that there's been, actually, a lot of activity in the anti-smuggling operation in the Gulf this month. So far, six ships have been detained in April alone -- or have been diverted; six ships have been diverted. Two more ships have been detained and haven't been diverted yet. One of those ships is the Akademik the Russian ship. So there were two ships that have been detained, but their fate is undetermined.
We hope to have the fate of the Russian ship determined relatively soon, and then it will go into the divert category or another category.
To put this in perspective, last year, in all of last year, 1999, calendar 1999, there were 19 diverts. This year, so far, there have been 15 diverts, and two ships' detains, so a total of 17 in the divert or detain category.
Q: They were detained and let go?
Q: What do you mean by "divert"?
MR. BACON: A "divert" is a ship that has been boarded and has been determined to have -- boarded or at least stopped -- determined to have Iraqi oil that's being smuggled out of Iraq illegally, and is diverted from its planned course, which is to sell this oil to somebody and get money for the Iraqi regime or for the smugglers, who have already paid off the Iraqi regime. And then, rather than doing that, the ship is diverted, where the oil is off-loaded and sold. So the revenues never get to the smuggler.
Now you know, from talking with Admiral Moore about this in the Gulf, that recently the smugglers have been paying about $205 a metric ton for smuggled oil. Of that, $95 goes to Iraq. Approximately $50 goes to Iran, as a fee to operate within Iranian waters. And actually it goes to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy, for the most part. And about $60 goes into the pockets of the smugglers. So the smugglers have to pay approximately $205, but that $205 is allocated to three people.
If they can't sell the oil, then they forego their profit, and they forego what they've paid to get the oil in the first place.
Q: Is the increase due to increased enforcement or just so many more coming through to catch in this?
MR. BACON: Well, it's due to two things: First, the higher oil prices go, the greater the incentive is to smuggle oil. So smuggling goes up as oil prices go up. Last fall, when oil prices were very low, there was very little smuggling. And, therefore, there were very little intercepts, very few boardings and diversions.
Since oil prices have gone up, smuggling has also gone up, and therefore, our enforcement operations have gone up. When there is not much smuggling taking place, there is not as much need for enforcement. So we have tried to match, as much as possible, the enforcement to the smuggling activity.
Q: Have you added ships to the enforcement?
MR. BACON: Ships are added. There has been a surge operation under way in the northern Gulf, close to Iraq and Kuwait, for the last several days. And I don't know how many ships have been added, but we do from time to time bring in extra ships.
Eighteen countries have participated in the intercept operations over the years. These operations are carried out to enforce a U.N. Security Council mandate. And over the years, 18 countries have participated, and they supply ships on an episodic basis. Our ships are there permanently, obviously, because the 5th Fleet is based in the area. And then allies, such as Australia, NATO allies, Argentina and others, come and add ships to the force.
QKen, just two questions. So when you detain a ship, does that mean that they do have Iraqi oil; or you just detain them, and if they're okay --
MR. BACON: Right now, the Russian ship is detained. It has been detained since April 5th. We are continuing to analyze the cargo and to figure out what should happen to this ship.
If a decision is made that the cargo should be sold because it contains Iraqi oil, the ship will be diverted to a port in the area. It could be in one of a number of countries in the Gulf. The oil will be pumped out and sold. The revenues from the sale will go into an escrow account to support the U.N. operations. That's basically what happens.
Sometimes the ships are also sold by the detaining country. And then I believe the revenues from the ship sale go to the country, but I am not certain about that.
Q: And of these ships that have been diverted, detained, are they mostly by U.S. ships, or by some of our allies?
MR. BACON: Well, it's a force, and I don't think we can break it down. Some of the Gulf countries participate from time to time in the Maritime Interdiction Force; our ships are there all the time, and other countries are involved, and I don't know whether these were all done by U.S. sailors or done -- or Coast Guard. The Coast Guard participates in this from time to time, as well -- or, they were done by other countries.
Q: Okay, and one other question. You said there were two reasons, the rising oil prices, and you didn't say the other one, did you?
MR. BACON: Two reasons for what?
Q: That these numbers have gone up.
MR. BACON: Yeah. The rise in oil prices and the increase in enforcement. They're related. When oil prices go up, smuggling goes up and then we have to devote more resources to enforcement.
Q: Oh. Okay.
Q: Are U.S. ships part of the surge you mentioned? That there is an increased number of U.S. ships?
MR. BACON: I believe they are, but it's largely just a question of --
Q: Trade off?
MR. BACON: A question of deciding how the ships in the area are going to be used. Let's see; we have 17 combat ships in the region; six are currently participating in the Maritime Interdiction Operations.
Q: So you're saying we ordinarily would have 17 or so in the region, but they might not -- as many might not be participating?
MR. BACON: Right. It varies, the number dedicated to the maritime Interdiction Force.
Q: Now, $205 do you know how that would compare to oil bought on the open market?
MR. BACON: Ooh. No, because for some reason I don't fully understand, in the Gulf we talk in terms of metric tons and in the real world we talk about barrels. I've been told there are 40-odd barrels to a metric ton, but I don't know that for a fact, and we'd have to get the transition to figure that out.
Q: There have been some reports that Iran has been grabbing ships that they say are suspected of smuggling, and seizing the oil. I think last week they claimed that they had seized 10 or 12 ships over the preceding couple of weeks. Do you have any sense of what the reality of that situation is, whether they have in fact been nabbing ships? Whether this is taken as participation in this enforcement of this embargo, or is it something else?
MR. BACON: Well, Iran is part of the U.N., obviously, and so it would be required to help enforce the U.N. Security Council resolutions. But the Iranians have over the last week or so stopped 10 to 12 ships. It's been reported in the Iranian press that the reason they did that was because they were afraid of pollution of a resort area in, I think, Qeys Island. That's what's been reported in the press.
It is true that a lot of the smugglers are small, relatively old ships. Some may even be leaky ships.
And there have been pollution problems from the smuggling. And these problems have afflicted the UAE, as well as Iran, according to these press reports out of Iran. And they may have affected other countries as well. So there are environmental reasons to stop the smuggling.
In addition, I think that Iran -- although I haven't heard them speak about this, but it's entirely reasonable to assume that Iran is concerned about smuggling operations that channel money into Saddam Hussein's military. Remember, all the revenues from smuggling are unmonitored by the U.N. auditors. So this is money that Saddam Hussein and his family or forces can use any way they want. They can use them to build weapons, to subsidize anti-Iranian terrorists, to build palaces for Saddam Hussein. It's all unaudited money.
So it's conceivable that Iran may have gotten wind of how much money is going into Saddam's pocket, and they may have some concerns that this could be used against them in some way.
Q: This isn't just stopping them and taking their $50 or their $205?
MR. BACON: Pardon?
Q: This isn't -- you've said that the Iranian Royal Navy gets a $50 kickback on the smuggled --
MR. BACON: I think it's the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Navy, generally --
MR. BACON: -- that has been getting the payments. There's also an Iranian Navy. But my understanding is that it's the Revolutionary Guards -- excuse me -- or Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Navy that's largely providing the coastal patrol and traffic keeping in that area.
Q: How many metric tons have been on those 15 diverted ships?
MR. BACON: Well, we've been -- I don't know that. Most of them -- the Russian ship has approximately 80,000 metric tons on it. Some of these other ships that have been stopped are very small. One has about 200, a couple of them have thousand to 2,000 metric tons. But I don't have the total.
The thing that's unusual about the Russian ship is that it is a large ship. Generally, the smuggling -- the smugglers are small ships.
Q: Is there any indication that the size of the shipments have been growing larger between this year and last year?
MR. BACON: I can't answer that question. I don't know. We can try to find the answer. I mean, are you asking if larger, more modern ships have been brought in to participate in the smuggling?
Q: No, if there's just -- the size of the shipments of the oil being smuggled has risen along with the numbers of ships --
MR. BACON: The amount of oil being smuggled has increased dramatically. At the -- when oil prices were at -- and remember, all of this is oil price-dependent, so the rate of smuggling changes with the oil prices. As they go down, the smuggling goes down. And oil prices have gone down from their peak.
But when oil prices were at their peak earlier this year, the smuggling was taking place at the rate of, I think, about 4 million metric tons. That compares with -- that was more than twice the rate that the smuggling took place last year.
Q: Four million metric tons a -- ?
MR. BACON: A year.
Q: A year.
MR. BACON: That was the annual rate if it continued -- if oil prices remained high, which they haven't, and smuggling continued at the same rate.
Q: Is that successful smuggling or smuggling that you intercepted?
MR. BACON: The smuggling that we intercept is actually a relatively small percentage. And the -- but that's not the sole test for the effectiveness of the smuggling operation. We think the smuggling operation has dramatically limited the amount of oil that the Iraqis attempt to smuggle out in the first place. We think we've shut down one entire supply route by enforcing the Maritime Interdiction Zone, or by enforcing the U.N. sanctions, limiting them, then, to just one port, rather than the two they were using once before. And we clearly have increased the risk that smugglers face. So we think that there's probably less smuggling -- we know that there's less smuggling than there would be if there were no force there.
Q: Do you know what that port is that they're now using, the one that's left?
MR. BACON: It's Shatt al-Arab, I believe is the one that's still being used. But I'll have to double check that [Shatt al-Arab is the waterway and the port is Abu Flus].
Q: Can I ask a different subject?
MR. BACON: Sure? Are we finished on this?
Q: This Iranian National Guard, who are they? Are they a government --
MR. BACON: Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy is -- yeah, I mean, it's part of their security forces.
Q: Any information on when Dr. Gansler is either going to make a decision or release a decision about alternatives to the winner- take-all approach for the Joint Strike Fighter?
MR. BACON: No. He's reviewing now a number of options, and I don't know when he'll make a decision.
Q: Ken, can I ask you a follow-up? General Haas said yesterday he needs a decision by May 15th to keep the program on track as it prepares for the next big phase. Do you have a sense of time line, in the next couple of weeks it might happen?
MR. BACON: Well, I'm sure that Undersecretary Gansler wants to keep the program on track, so he'll try to make a decision within that time line.
Q: Will you be announcing the decision to interested press on this or keep it close hold? What's the plan right now?
MR. BACON: I have not had a chance to discuss this with Dr. Gansler. But I assume that, if we make a major decision about the program that affects the contracts, we will announce it. For one thing, any such decision will be certainly sensitive information on Wall Street and is not the type of information that we can keep -- should keep secret for security reasons -- that is, Security and Exchange Commission reasons -- securities law reasons. So I assume that we will announce a decision when it's appropriate to do so.
Q: On a completely separate subject, Arab American groups are protesting outside of this movie "Rules of Engagement," complaining that the film is racist in the depictions of Arabs -- racist and so on. And one of the things that they are complaining -- at least to CNN -- about is that the Defense Department did provide support to the producers of this movie -- and are calling into question DOD support of a movie that would put forward a racist view of any ethnic group or a derogatory view of any other group.
What sort of criteria does DOD use for providing support to projects like this? And is that sort of thing a consideration when the scripts are reviewed?
MR. BACON: Our primary consideration is making sure that movies provide a fair, and hopefully accurate, portrayal of the military.
We tend not to support movies that put the military in situations that we do not support. For instance, if a movie showed the military taking a light view of a mutiny on board a ship, we would not support such a movie because we would never be in that position. If a movie showed us condoning discrimination as a policy, we would not support a movie like that because the military does not support discrimination as a policy; we condemn discrimination. And fairness is our policy. So that really governs how we make decisions about supporting movies.
Q: What about in this particular instance, where the Arab American anti-defamation groups and so on, claim that this is just a flagrantly racist depiction of Arab people? Is that the kind of thing that is part of the process when you are considering what to provide support to and what not to?
MR. BACON: Our consideration really focuses on the portrayal of the military. We have to obviously balance how we work with movie production companies. They have a right to make the movies any way they want to make them. We pay attention to how they portray the military when we decide whether to support the movie or not.
Q: Do you have any examples of films that DOD did not support?
MR. BACON: Yes. We actually did not support a movie several years ago that concerned a -- that was about a mutiny on a submarine, "Red Storm Rising"? "Red Tide Rising"?
Q: "Red" -- "Crimson Tide"?
Q: "Crimson Tide"?
Q: "Crimson Tide"!
MR. BACON: I don't -- I'm afraid I didn't -- because we didn't support it, of course, I couldn't see the movie -- (laughter) -- and therefore can't remember its name. But that's an example of a movie that we didn't support.
There have been -- there are movies every year we decline to support, because we think they portray the military in a very inaccurate way.
Q: All right. But drawing lines of political correction or whatever is not something that the DOD considers during the process of approving help for films -- that sort of thing.
MR. BACON: As I said, what we look at primarily is the way the military is portrayed and whether it's portrayed accurately. We're clearly not going to support -- not going to assist with movies that portray our policies in an inaccurate or destructive way.
Q: Very briefly revisit the food stamp issue from a statistical viewpoint?
Q: (Laughing.) Please don't!
Q: Just very quickly, just a statistical question. You put out a figure on Tuesday of an estimated 6,300 military families on food stamps, down from about 11,900 --
MR. BACON: Right. Right.
Q: -- between '95 and '98. I know that the higher figure came out of a very detailed report that the Pentagon sent to Congress in early '96. Where did the lower figure come from? And do you have any explanation or even speculation as to why the number dropped so sharply --
MR. BACON: I'm very glad you asked that question -- (laughter) -- for two reasons: one, because I misspoke and used the '95 figure of approximately 12,000, 11,900 families. It is the wrong figure. The correct figure is 6,300.
We anticipate that if we stay on the current course and do nothing else, that that figure will come down to about 4,000 by 2004 or '5, for two reasons. One is the pay increases that are going into effect now. And the second is changing -- changes in the basic allowance for housing. So if we stay on a steady course with our current policies in effect, that number will come down.
In terms of how we determined the 6,300, I have an expert here, Captain Elliot Bloxum, who is prepared to walk through that with you.
Q: Could you just -- why the drop over a three-year span was -- that's almost cut in half? Was it strictly a function of the draw- down, or were there other factors?
MR. BACON: I think that Captain Bloxum will be able to explain that.
MR. BACON: Tammy?
Q: Have you looked at how many families could be added to the Food Stamp Program if Secretary Cohen's plan doesn't pan out?
MR. BACON: Well, we don't have good figures on that. Obviously, that also will depend on a variety of things. Obviously, it would lead to some increase, but I don't think we have a precise figure at this stage. It would just be a raw estimate.
Let me turn it over to Captain Bloxum.
STAFF: Thank you, sir.
MR. BACON: Sure.
Q: Were you supposed to get him out of here? (Laughter.)
CAPTAIN BLOXOM: That's controlled by you. (Laughter.)
The 6,300 number, we have extreme confidence in that number as being accurate. The methodology by which we determined the 11,995 and we determined the 6,300, which is the '98 figure based on '98 data, is the same. We send information on who the members are in various states. The states compare that in a snapshot time of who was on food stamps, against that list. And that's how we determine.
For the survey that's being prepared to send to Congress right now, which cites the 6,300 number, we have surveyed almost half of the force. And it was a survey of 10 states -- picked up about 650,000 -- surveying 650,000 members and then extrapolating that number out to cover the entire force. The '95 study was based on a survey of four states.
So the 6,300 is a very accurate number. And you could attribute that decrease, not to downsizing because when you look at the size of the force, percentage-wise, the number has come down from less than 1 percent, about eight-tenths of a percent, in '95, to less than one- half of a percent of the force on food stamps, as of '98.
Q: So you think the '95 figure was probably inflated?
CAPTAIN BLOXOM: I think the '95 figure was accurate based on the survey we had at the time. I think that what we have seen, as a result of pay raises and the relatively low inflation over time, has put the effective pay raise in a more favorable light, versus the threshold for food stamps, which is determined by inflation.
THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS PREPARED BY THE FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., WASHINGTON, DC. FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE IS A PRIVATE COMPANY. FOR OTHER DEFENSE RELATED TRANSCRIPTS NOT AVAILABLE THROUGH THIS SITE, CONTACT FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE AT (202) 347-1400.