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DoD News Briefing - 14 May 96

Presenters: Captain Michael Doubleday, USN, DASD (PA)
May 14, 1996 1:30 PM EDT

Tuesday, May 14, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.

Captain Doubleday: OK. Just a few announcements. Tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 in the DoD Briefing Studio, the Air Force will have global positioning system equipment available and will present a brief demonstration of that system. For more information, you can contact the Air Force Public Affairs Office at 695-0640.

The Army will have a demonstration of its current countermine equipment and latest developmental concepts as well as a display on Thursday, May 16th, at Fort Belvoir beginning at 9:30 in the morning. They'll also have subject matter experts to discuss the equipment and the technology. Some of the equipment that will be displayed there is already in use in Bosnia. For further information, you can contact Rey Aponte at the Army Material Command at area code 703-617-8013 or 617-0126.

I'd like to invite all of you and your friends and families to this weekend's DoD Open House at Andrews Air Force Base. Secretary Perry will preside at Friday's opening ceremony at 10:05 a.m. followed by various demonstrations and flybys. This is all in connection with Armed Forces Day. The featured demonstration team is the Navy's Blue Angels who will perform on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 3 p.m. Admission to this event is free. This DoD Open House is an excellent opportunity to see your military in action, and I would encourage anybody who is free and interested to attend.

The Air Force will hold Recce Expo '96 on Friday, May 17th, beginning right after Secretary Perry's opening remarks at the DoD Open House at Andrews Air Force Base. Aircraft such as the RC-135, U-2 and the Predator will be open for viewing by the media and crews will be available for interviews. For more information, you can contact either the Air Force or Andrews Air Force Base Public Affairs at area code 301-981-4511.

More than 6,000 military members from the United States and the United Kingdom will take part in the largest airlift and parachute assault since World War II tomorrow and Thursday. That's May 15th and 16th. This is Big Drop Three. It's a joint military exercise designed to train the rapid deployment of U.S. Air Force, Royal Air Force, U.S. Army, and British Army assets to strategic locations during times of international crisis. Big Drop Three, known as Royal Dragon by the U.S. Army and Purple Star by the U.K. forces, will bring together 144 C-130 aircraft from 28 U.S. Air Force active duty, reserve, Air National Guard units and from the Royal Air Force. Media are invited to cover the exercise and are advised to bring night vision capable photographic equipment. No lighting will be authorized in the drop zone. Washington media will depart Andrews Air Force Base tomorrow morning and return Thursday at 5 p.m. and for more information, please see Joe March in DDI.

And finally, the Air Force announced that the B-2 bomber fleet is currently under a precautionary stand-down of routine training missions. A concern regarding a clamp in the tailpipe assembly of a B-2 aircraft was discovered last Friday. An inspection procedure is being designed to determine if any other B-2s have this problem. A precautionary stand-down is a temporary suspension of routine training missions when a safety or maintenance concern has been identified on one or more aircraft. The Air Force currently has 10 B-2s at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. And if you need additional information on this one, I'm going to have to refer you to the Air Force.

Q: When did they announce that?

A: I just got this announcement a short time ago, but I'm not sure when the actual announcement was made by the Air Force.

Q: Do you know why this wasn't announced before today, four days after the grounding?

A: Again, I'm going to have to refer you to the Air Force for the timing of when they make their announcements on these stand-downs.

Q: Do you know what happened besides concern about the clamp?

A: It has to do with, I believe, that the clamp was cracked and there was concern that the assembly which was like the tailpipe, that this clamp held in place, would shift, and they are most anxious to figure out what they can do to correct that problem and if the problem exists on other aircraft.

Q: Do you know how long this is going to take?

A: Don't have any idea at this point how long it will take. We've got ten aircraft involved.

Q: Do you know when the Defense Department Public Affairs Office was made aware of this grounding?

A: I certainly have been made aware of it today, but this is the first I was aware of it.

Q: Isn't that a bit unusual, if something would have been discovered or the fleet would have been grounded on Friday and it would take so long to make a public announcement?

A: Well, I think it was on Friday and then I think what they wanted to do is to get their contract personnel in there to take a look at it and to see what procedures they might recommend. And as a result of that, the Air Force elected to take this action.

Q: Isn't that unordinary for the services to announce the grounding of an entire category of planes sooner than four days after the grounding?

A: Well, but I think that the grounding took place just after they talked to the maintenance personnel, contractors, which occurred as I understand yesterday.

Q: Will there be a B-2 at the air show?

A: I can't say at this point. It looks to me like that is somewhat in question at this point because of the routine nature of air shows.

Q: So what you're saying -- go ahead. So the grounding was yesterday. They found the problem last Friday.

A: Well, now I can't tell you. All I know at this point is we've got an announcement that it has occurred.

Q: Saturday?

A: It has been since Saturday.

Q: According to the people at Whiteman, it was Friday afternoon that they were grounded. The Air Force said Friday.

A: OK.

Q: That begs the question. Five days later -- it gets announced. It seems a bit unusual, don't you think?

A: Well, I'll have to refer you to the Air Force on what their procedures are for announcing their grounding.

Q: Captain Doubleday, does the grounding of the B-2 fleet in any way adversely affect the national security of the United States?

A: I think that we're always anxious to have all of our aircraft operating, but I would say that at this point and time no, that it does not.

Q: There's no indication this is a defect in manufacturing of any kind?

A: I don't have any details at this point on what it might indicate.

Q: Is that because this is a plane without a mission?

A: No, it's just because it's a problem that is being looked at that will be solved as expeditiously as it can possibly be solved.

Q: Were all the B-2s in Missouri when they were grounded?

A: I can't tell you what their location was.

Q: So, we don't know if any had to be brought back from a show or anything like that?

A: No.

Q: Is this the first time that there's been a stand-down of the B-2s since they entered service?

A: I can't answer that. I really am going to have to refer you to the Air Force. They're the people that have all the details on this. Any other subject?

Q: Anymore word on the helicopter collision investigation?

A: No. As you know from your experience that there is always an accident investigation and the safety investigation that follow those processes are going on, and I would imagine that it will be some time before we get a full report of what happened there. I know that Dr. White, the Deputy Secretary, was down for a visit to [USS] SAIPAN where he held a memorial service on Saturday and then he flew over the route. But, there has been no reporting that I've seen from the investigations that are going on.

Q: There have been reports that Admiral Leighton Smith will retire before the end of the Bosnian mission. Can you shed any light on that?

A: I think I'm going to have to take exactly the same position that Ken Bacon took the other day, and at this point I just can't help you on that one. Yes, just one more.

Q: Captain Doubleday, is there any negotiation ongoing between Secretary Perry's office and Senator [Arlen] Specter on the request for the Secretary to testify on this intelligence reform bill?

A: Not that I'm aware of. The Secretary has made it clear that he would be willing to testify before a joint committee meeting. But I'm not aware of any kind of negotiations.

Q: What about the senator's hold on Pentagon nominations? Is that going to cause any problems if we don't get this thing resolved?

A: I think that everyone is aware that in the summer months that a lot of military people who change jobs and certainly, we're anxious for expeditious handling of any nominations for senior military personnel. But at this point, I think it's too early to predict how that's going to come out.

Press: Thank you.

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