DoD News Briefing, Friday, April 9, 1999 - 3:00 p.m.
(Also participating in this briefing was Major General Chuck Wald, J-5)
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.
Let me just start with one or two announcements, and then I'll turn it over to General Wald to give you an operational update.
We are deploying six additional F-15C fighters to Europe in support of Operation Allied Force to increase the combat capacity there. This is separate from General Clark's request for more planes. This actually pre-dated-obviously, it's part of a request for more planes, but it pre-dates the request that he mentioned the other day. That request is still being worked, and I suspect will be turned around relatively quickly, but has not yet been turned around.
Secondly, the USS INCHON will remain in the Eastern Mediterranean to support NATO in two respects. One, it has a mine countermeasures capacity; and two, it has a 12-bed hospital on it which can be used to help refugees as part of our effort to improve medical care or provide necessary medical care for complex medical operations.
Second, I'd just like to note that while we've been focusing a lot on the military operations and also on the humanitarian efforts to deal with the problems of the refugees, it's important to keep our eye on what's really at stake here, and this is the brutality that has been inflicted on the Kosovar people. We're getting some very disturbing reports out of Kosovo recently that young Kosovar women are being herded into a Serb army training camp near the town of Dakovica, which is in southwest Kosovo, where they are being raped by troops, and we have reports that as many as 20 may have been killed in the course of this. This is a very eerie and disturbing echo of documented instances of rape and killing of women in Bosnia during the Bosnia war, and it is obviously outrageous that this is occurring. We're getting these reports, as I say, and we will be attempting to try to confirm these reports over the next few days as we interview refugees and look for other ways to obtain information.
Q: The spelling of that town?
Mr. Bacon: The spelling is--there it is. It's quite close to the Albanian border. Actually, here is the town, right there, and there is the spelling -- D-A-K-O-V-I-C-A.
Q: Can I ask one quick thing?
Mr. Bacon: Sure.
Q: There are reports out of Tirane that Apache helicopters may start arriving as early as tonight. We were told yesterday that they're flying down on their own from Germany. Could you fill us in on that at all?
Mr. Bacon: General Wald will give you a complete update on that.
We were in Ramstein yesterday with the Secretary of Defense, and they were loading the first of five C-17s that set out to go down to Tirane as the leading edge of Task Force Hawk, which is the name of the group that will include the Apaches. The Apaches will be self-deploying. I don't know whether they've started yet, but General Wald will be able to bring you further up to date on that schedule.
Q: Any refugees going to GITMO at all, Ken? What's the story on that?
Mr. Bacon: General Wald will address that as well.
So why don't I turn it over to him, and I'll come back and answer questions later.
Major General Wald: Good afternoon.
I'll give you an update as we did yesterday on the weather. As you can see, over the last 24 hours the weather has deteriorated somewhat in the AOR. That forecast for the next days [looks] to be less than desirable. But once again, as I've said over the last couple of days, I'll remind you that the forecast is not always what you see. I understand that they're forecasting rain all day today in Washington, and I haven't seen outside, but I think it's still sunny. So we're hoping for the best, but it has been a little worse over the last couple of days, and we'll see how that works out.
Quickly, and based a little bit on weather and based on the commander's intent, the target list went down a little bit last night as you can see. Five major targets in the Serbia area, and then the VJ/MUP engagement zone was attacked yesterday. The major targets, again, were military force, concentrating on that, much of it in this engagement area, as well as fuel, command and control, and industry. Of course the command and control is part of the integrated air defense as well, so we're attacking those targets.
Quickly into the VJ/MUP engagement zone. This is a general overview. Dozens of aircraft, but primarily A-10s, F-16s from both the U.S. and Holland, and British GR-7 Harriers attacked surface-to-air missiles. An SA-6 was destroyed by a Dutch F-16. Armored vehicles were destroyed and trucks, and those were in the dozens.
What I'll do now is show a video that explains a little bit of, even though there were only five major target areas last night, not including the engagement zone -- and once again I'll remind you, the engagement zone may have dozens of targets in it -- of the ability to hit maybe in a target area, if a target has--as I explained earlier, it may require one weapon, it may require several weapons, or it may have several areas in that target that are hit.
What I'd like to show you now is some film from the B-2. The B-2s that flew last night carried 16 GPS bombs, and those bombs can either hit a single target or several targets spread out over an area.
On here you'll see a target area in the Nellis range area. It's hard to see on here, where 16 different targets were hit by one B-2, spread out over an area that was fairly large -- only small here because of the filming of it. Each one of those targets was directly hit from a significant standoff distance.
What I'd like to point out here is each B-2 carries 16 precision-guided munitions, GPS, 2,000-pound bombs, and they can either be hit on the same target or on individual targets spread out over many, many miles.
Q: What were those targets?
Major General Wald: These on this particular film were armored vehicles and bunkers. Last night the spread of the different targets I mentioned earlier...
Q: Last night moving targets or...
Major General Wald: No, they were stationary targets last night.
Next I'm going to show you some film from the last couple of days. This was an armored barracks area in Nis struck by F-16s that were totally destroyed.
The next film here, once again, it's the same area that was just destroyed as the aircraft departs the area.
The next film will be on a bridge with an F-15E, with a television guided AGM-130 bomb. The Backa Balanka bridge. And you'll see as he's driving in, he's guiding the bomb, and he'll be going for one of the main structures, stanchions on the bridge, to take that bridge down, and in fact this bomb did take that stanchion down and take the bridge down in the river.
Q: Where was that bridge?
Major General Wald: This was two nights ago.
Major General Wald: Backa Balanka.
Q: What river?
Major General Wald: That's right, it was the Danube River.
As you can see, he's guiding the weapon into the area that would do the most damage, and that was taken down.
The next film is the Novi Sad communication site once again. This is an F-16 against this communication site here. That's both for command and control and for integrated air defense. This is a 2,000 pound laser-guided bomb. The bomb was coming in from the right with a direct hit and destroys the communication site.
Once again, although the film looks a little dark here, in the cockpit it's very clear, and this is a night shot, so from the cockpit it looks like day.
The next film will be--this is also a communication relay site. On this one, I'll stop the film, and you'll actually see the bomb coming into the target area. As you can see, the laser is through the cursor here, directly over the target, 2,000-pound bomb from an F-16. You'll see it coming in here. It's a direct hit, and destroys the target.
Q: What was the site?
Major General Wald: That was a communications relay site.
Q: What day?
Major General Wald: I think that was two days ago. I'll check for you.
Q: And what was the aircraft?
Major General Wald: That was an F-16 with a 2,000-pound laser-guided bomb.
Q: Again, sorry, where was It?
Major General Wald: That was a Jadnovik.
A correction, in case there was any confusion, that B-2 film was a film of a B-2 actually on a training run in Nevada. So that was not a demonstration from last night, we don't have people on the ground filming this, but that's a demonstration of its capability and that's the way they employ it.
Q: How many B-2s were involved?
Major General Wald: I won't give you the number of aircraft that are actually flying the missions.
Q: More than one?
Major General Wald: It was more than one.
Q: Have they been flying throughout?
Major General Wald: They've been flying throughout, and I won't tell you when or how, but they have been flying throughout and performing very well.
The next thing I'd like to point out is once again on targeting. The fact is, once again, a target may have a single target for a single bomb, or it may be several.
This is a single target area. It may be a little difficult for you to see, but there are several bunkers in this area. It's an ammo storage area near Pristina; this is in Kosovo, and each one of these bunkers. This is a single target area, it's called one target, but each one of these points here is called design mean point of impact that we will show you here in just a moment to be destruction on that.
And as you can see here, these buildings are being taken out individually. So when you hear that there were 22 or 30 targets, that doesn't necessarily mean 22 or 30 bombs. It may be several bombs on a particular target area, and that was successful.
Q: General, were the B-2 raids in Kosovo or in the greater Serbia...
Major General Wald: The B-2 raids were in the FRY last night.
Once again, an update on the refugee situation. Just a couple of changes. A 20,000 person increase in Albania. Ten thousand of those were, the UNHCR actually located 10,000 refugees they had not located before and identified; and then another 10,000 moved from the FYROM over to Albania.
The numbers here are total; UNHCR estimated between 1.2 and 1.4 million total displaced Kosovo Albanians either inside Kosovo or on the periphery. That leaves approximately 400,000 of the total population that isn't categorized as displaced.
Contributing nations to the humanitarian relief--there's 27 different nations that have provided over 2,000 tons of food. You can see shelter, bedding, medical, and vehicles. That continues to come in.
As far as the U.S. contribution, the humanitarian daily rations that have arrived in Ancona is now up to nearly 300,000. The humanitarian daily rations that were in Tirane were at 96,000 yesterday, so there's been nearly 140,000 more arrive over the last 24 hours. The major change in Skopje is there have been 1,000 more tents [that have arrived] there, and the major problem they have in the FYROM right now has been shelter. But the shelter, food, and humanitarian aid as well as medical is being resolved. Indications are at least the triage portion, the major crisis of survival for many of the refugees has been handled. Now, as a question was asked earlier, Ivan, I believe it was you, the question of Guantanamo Bay.
The U.S. remains prepared to receive refugees as needed, but our indications are the refugees would prefer to stay closer to home with their families, and since the immediate crisis for at least those outside of Kosovo has been to a large majority taken care of, although the food will continue to be shipped in, many of those refugees would prefer to stay a little bit closer to their homes for a couple of reasons. One, that's where they live; and number two, they want to go back to their homes later. So we're prepared to receive them as we need, but there isn't any need as of today.
Q: Have any gone yet at all, General?
Major General Wald: None to Guantanamo.
The way ahead, the push for Albania will be tents, but 200 of the 700 tents have arrived into the intermediate staging base at Ancona, and then on forward to Tirane. Then we'll start shifting from shelter to food into the Macedonia area.
That concludes the brief, and I'll take questions.
Q: On the Apaches, could you fill us in on whether or not any of them arrived or are expected to arrive shortly?
Major General Wald: EUCOM had a press release today; maybe you've seen it. But as I mentioned yesterday, the planning for the Apaches to move forward is ongoing. Right now there's a team in place in Tirane with a mobile lighting system and a mobile approach control system that over the next couple of days--this weekend, depending on weather, they have to have good weather to test the approach control--that should open that field for 24-hour operations by, through the weekend. At that time it will be easier to bring more equipment in.
But the EUCOM report is that they plan to deploy Task Force Hawk over the next seven to ten days, getting there with some capability, hopefully within, as we said earlier, seven to ten days. Not full capability. And once again the balance there is between humanitarian and operational need. Additionally, they're putting in force protection early on, and they're going to deliberately plan this mission to give both the best possibility for mission success and decrease risk.
Q: So you're saying that it's unlikely that the Apaches would be operational before seven days from now.
Major General Wald: I would say the initial operational capability--it would be unlikely that they would be there before seven days.
Q: General, is there any way at this point to quantify the results of the campaign to degrade the Yugoslav military?
Major General Wald: Yesterday, I think Admiral Wilson gave you some specifics on numbers. But once again, the results of last night, which appear to be successful, are additive to those numbers, and from what I understand, the CINC is satisfied with the campaign as it's progressing, and it's going along at the pace he had hoped for, and he feels it is successful.
Q: You have all these terrific stats on the humanitarian effort. Don't you have any stats like this as far as the bombing campaign? I assume you do.
Major General Wald: I don't personally have those statistics, and we're not into tracking those statistics. We're looking for overall...
Q: You don't know how many targets have been hit? You don't know how many...
Major General Wald: We do know exactly how many targets were hit, and I'm not going to tell you that at this time. It's for operational requirements.
Q: The Serbs have made quite a to-do of a ceasefire during their Orthodox Easter, which has been in effect, I think, since last night. Have the Serbs shown that they are ceasing fire in Kosovo? Are they ceasing fire when it comes to defending against NATO planes? What's the status?
Major General Wald: Actually, there is no indication whatsoever that the Serbs have ceased fire. As a matter of fact there were reports last night of both AAA and some SAMs being fired, MANPADS. As Mr. Bacon mentioned earlier, they don't seem to be stopping their moving on the Kosovo Albanians in Kosovo, and there are actually some reports of atrocities. So there hasn't been any indication that the Serbs have stopped for the holiday, but we certainly respect that, just as we do the Christian holiday.
Q: Do you have some reports of fighting on the border? The KLA has apparently been engaged in an intense many-hour-long firefight with the VJ from Albania.
Major General Wald: I don't have reports on specifically that firefight. We have had reports that the UCK does continue to resist, and the latest report I have is their morale remains reasonably good, considering. So I don't have a specific report on that.
Q: General, at the NATO briefing this morning they were talking about a movement of troops to the north of Kosovo. Can you tell us anything about that particular--how large a movement, and what its purpose might be?
Major General Wald: I don't know anything about their planning for any troops there. I have heard reports on troops for humanitarian, as you've heard over the last few days, but that's the only report I've heard on troops, and I didn't hear that NATO report.
Q: We're hearing about dissension among some of the military commanders on the political wing of NATO, forbidding them to hit the television transmission towers in Serbia.
Major General Wald: I'm not privy to any political discussions and haven't heard of any of that dissension personally.
Q: Can you characterize the attacks in Kosovo by the A-10s and the Brits and the F-16s and the Dutch? I get the impression they're boring in, getting at the lower level, attacking columns again?
Major General Wald: I won't talk about tactics, as you can imagine why. But I can just say they are being effective and they're using smart tactics and those tactics change as the environment changes.
Q: But are they on columns of troops, armor...
Major General Wald: The targets themselves?
Major General Wald: There are reports of some columns, but not many. As you saw a picture yesterday, there were some columns. Many of these are dispersed. They are dispersing and hiding amongst the trees and the buildings. But when we catch them out in the open, of course, they're easier to attack, and we'll be ready to do that. But there's been a combination, but not a lot of columning at this time that I've heard of.
Q: Can you tell us what the impact of the bombing has been on Serbs in Yugoslavia? The impact on average citizens over there?
Major General Wald: I've heard some spotty reports, but I haven't heard as you know, the targets basically are military targets primarily, as a matter of fact 100 percent. If they're dual-use, that is taken into consideration. But the targets themselves are targets that affect, support, and help the VJ/MUP and police perform their missions. So I think over time, I think there may be a psychological impact, but I have not heard of any economic or personal hardship impact on the Serbian people at this time.
Q: Bridges have been taken out, fuel depots and things like that. It has not had a significant impact yet on civilians?
Major General Wald: I don't know of a significant effect. I haven't heard reports. I would think there would be some effect, and we regret that. Our fight is not taken to the Serbian people; it's with the Serbian army and Milosevic, and that's the targeting we'll do.
Q:...military use of that...
Q:...several times about the, you said it depends on the environmental changes. You've noted that the weather is getting worse. You've noted that the weather is going to affect how quickly you get the Apaches in.
With the deteriorating weather, that undoubtedly means you're going to have to rely more on the cruise missiles. Could you give us an update on what the situation is from the air-launched cruise missiles? Are you getting in a critical shortage, supply? What is the latest on that?
Major General Wald: From what I understand, the commander feels there's an adequate amount of both cruise missiles and TLAM missiles as well as weapons. There is a plan afoot to produce more cruise, conventional air-launched cruise missiles, as you know, but right now, from what I understand, there's an adequate amount of those type of weapons to execute the strategic targets.
Q: But as you pointed out, you do have the cruise missiles from the sea, but they've yet to even begin to get the final approval for converting the weapons from nuclear-tipped to conventional for the air-launched. Still, this is not causing a concern for the air-launched cruise missiles?
Major General Wald: I know nothing about the nuclear weapon issue that you're talking about. I do know there's a chance to convert some missiles into cruise missiles, and from what I understand, that's been approved. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the CINC feels he has the adequate number of weapons he needs to execute a strategic campaign in this respect.
Q: General, can you say anything more about what General Clark has asked for in the way of additional aircraft, where that decision is now and how soon a decision will be made?
Major General Wald: I understand it's here in the building. The Chairman and the Secretary of Defense are working that. The number of aircraft is in the dozens. It's a complement of aircraft similar to what are there now -- suppression of enemy air defense, some attack aircraft and some tankers. And as has been said before, all those requests have been looked upon favorably here, and if the CINC needs something to execute the mission, I'm sure that will continue.
Q: Are more Apaches included in that request?
Major General Wald: I haven't heard any report of any more Apaches.
Q:...the last couple of nights?
Major General Wald: I beg your pardon?
Q: The B-1 the last couple of nights. Is there...
Major General Wald: I'm not going to report on the B-1 last night, but it has been flying over the days routinely. To tell you the truth, I don't think it flew last night.
Q: Given that the weather is getting worse, are you going to be asking for more U-2s and JSTARS? Weapon systems that can see through the clouds to provide some surveillance?
Major General Wald: First of all, I don't ask for anything. I don't know what the CINC's going to ask for, but if he needs it--I suspect he will--and if it goes along with the mission requirement, I'm sure he'll get what he asks for.
Q:...Generally, you're removing more assets in there. Is Northern Watch still flying at all? They're watching, but are they actually flying?
Major General Wald: The reports I've had, they haven't flown for the last few days, but I'm not sure exactly what the status of that is in the next few days.
Q: What's your assessment of Serbia's chemical weapons production capability? Have you specifically now taken those chemical weapon sites off the target list, so you don't cause collateral damage if you bomb them?
Major General Wald: First of all, we're not going to talk about targets. Number two is, I haven't heard reports of them having chemical weapons. But once again, any military target would be up to the CINC to request. But once again, I haven't heard any of that.
Q: What was the military use of the automobile factory that was hit last night?
Major General Wald: The automobile factory that was hit is a dual-use factory. The portions of that factory--it's a very large complex--were used to produce military parts for vehicles and tanks, and the portion of the factory that was attacked last night was the military portion of that factory, and from what I understand with good success.
As we've said before, targets that support his military and his ability to execute with his military--we will attack those. But once again, we're going to use all the planning tools we can to assure that we don't have any collateral damage, but dual-use targets as far as the military part are on the board.
Q: Have you seen the video that is on Serb TV? You can clearly see the chassis of what looked like civilian cars in that wreckage.
Major General Wald: I think a chassis of a car, if that were the wreckage of it, could look a lot like a tank or a car. So the point is, the part we attacked was definitely the military portion of that factory.
Q: Do you know if it was in operation at the time? The other thing they're saying is it was in operation around the clock, and I think they said 125 were wounded.
Major General Wald: I don't know if it was in operation at all, but we do take into consideration the time of day and try to minimize any casualties that we possibly can.
Q: On the pictures you showed us, if you could give us a little more detail. For example, the bridge Backa Balanka, was it?
Major General Wald: Right.
Q: What was the military purpose of taking out that bridge?
Major General Wald: That is a line of communication for resupplying the VJ and MUP military in Kosovo.
Q: Can I ask the same question about some of these others? It may be fairly obvious to you, but the Jadnovik communication relay site, for example.
Major General Wald: That's for command and control. Obviously they have to talk back and forth to control their military, as well as information for their integrated air defense.
Q: And did I understand rightly that the B-2 photo you showed us was filmed in Nevada and it was just an example...
Major General Wald: That's right. It's an example of the capability, right.
Q: We were told...
Major General Wald: But it's representative of what they are doing on the missions in Kosovo.
Q: We were told a few minute ago that the INCHON is remaining in the area. That's a mine countermeasures, ship. Is there a threat to ships in the water for mines?
Major General Wald: No. The purpose for the INCHON remaining in the area is they have heavy lift helicopters on there that are obviously used for minesweeping, but they also have the capability to lift heavy loads into remote areas. As we talked about yesterday, the road from Tirane to Kukes is in terrible shape and it's going to take helicopters to get the food up to the refugees. They'll be used for humanitarian aid.
Q: General, Joint Stars, how is it performing? Is it having difficulty with the terrain which has been mentioned frequently?
Major General Wald: From what I understand, Joint Stars is working magnificently.
Q: General, the 8,000 troops--NATO is looking at putting another 8,000 troops into Albania to assist the humanitarian refugee assistance. Is the U.S. considering contributing to that 8,000 force?
Major General Wald: First of all, I won't talk about NATO planning, and I'm not sure what the discussions are in NATO, so I would defer that to the NATO.
Q: You spoke earlier of dozens of vehicles that were hit. I just wanted to make sure that's what you said. And could you give any more clarification, any greater specificity?
Major General Wald: What I said was upwards to a dozen. There were dozens of vehicles there or targets there. We hit at least a dozen, and possibly more, with a dozen confirmed.
Q: We saw a lot of focus on cutting lines of communication between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia in the last several days. Are you seeing resupply going on along those lines of communication, or has that been pretty much stopped?
Major General Wald: All of the bridges and railroads that have been dropped--there of course is no movement whatsoever. They're trying to do some work-arounds but it's very, very difficult. So it has been disrupted significantly, and it's making it tough.
We have some indications that I've heard from intelligence reports, and Admiral Wilson mentioned it yesterday, that they are, we're seeing them have a shortage of fuel, and it's starting to make a difference on their operations.
Q: As a pilot experienced in this part of the world, when we see one of these days where you have the six red squares, whatever, with LANTIRN capability and that sort of thing, how much can you do in really bad weather?
Major General Wald: If it's bad where you can't see through the weather with a LANTIRN, you can't do much. But there are other aircraft and other systems, as was alluded to a little bit earlier, that can go through the weather. The B-2 is one of those and the cruise missiles as well.
But I will say from my experience in Europe that I've seen many times when I get into work early in the morning and hear the weather report that it's going to be red, that I've flown missions on those days and I've gotten out there, and lo and behold, there's been a hole in the clouds.
So we're still ready; even though the weather looks bad, they're still ready to fly, and if the weather breaks, they'll go fly.
Q: General, can you give us a ball park of how many sorties have been flown so far? Combat sorties?
Major General Wald: I can't give you the exact number, but it's in the thousands.
Q: The weather issue, is there some way to give us a ball park of how many of the packages you've planned to fly had to be canceled because of the weather? Is it a very high percentage?
Major General Wald: No, actually, it isn't a very high percentage. Over the last day or so, it's been reasonably significant, but over the last 14 days we've been pretty blessed with weather, even though it's been difficult.
Q: The last 24 hours?
Major General Wald: The last 24 hours--it's been a significant amount, but we've continued to fly, as I mentioned earlier, the five targets into Serbia and the engagement zone. So they'll continue to be ready to fly, and if it looks like the weather's bad when they get there, they'll turn around and come home or not launch, one or the other.
Q: A couple of weeks ago Mr. Bacon talked about an intriguing system that's been set up in the Aviano area to link airplanes, the shooters, with the sensors that are collecting imagery and data like the U-2 and the Predator, the idea being to get imagery into the cockpit fairly real time.
How mature is the system over there, and is that in play right now where pilots looking for targets can take advantage of things, maybe pick up (inaudible) 20 minutes early or something like that?
Major General Wald: I won't talk about the tactics and if they're using that or not, but there is a system available that you've heard of in Bosnia and with some of the aircraft.
I will say this as a general kind of comment. The capability with the JSTARS, AWACS, ground systems and the aircraft we're flying over there ourselves and the allies, by the way, which their aircraft have been improved even since Deliberate Force, significantly -- the Dutch, for example -- is better than we've ever seen before, and from a personal experience, the intelligence capability and the intelligence we're getting to the air crew is beyond anything I could have imagined five years ago and has improved significantly even over the last two years.
So I would say as a general comment, the support the crews are getting from an intelligence standpoint in the systems is the best it's ever been, and I'm certain if I were there I wouldn't be doing much complaining about it. So I think it's excellent.
Q: Is that helping mitigate the bad weather somewhat?
Major General Wald: It helps a little bit, and it helps on timing and other things as you can imagine.
Q: In terms of alternate systems, you showed us laser-guided bombs going after a bridge. You can also fire an AGM-130 in bad weather. What's the difference in terms of difficulty for a pilot if he's firing a laser-guided bomb or if he has to resort to an AGM-130?
Major General Wald: It depends on the proficiency and the type of aircraft. As you know, the F-15E has two individuals in it, one that actually operates the weapon system and the other to continue to fly it, which makes it a little bit easier. But with some of the improvements we've had over the years, the global positioning capability that we have in aircraft now that makes the navigation tremendously more easy. It is difficult, but with the training the pilots and the air crew have they do a good job. It's complicated, obviously, by weather, but I would say it's probably more complicated by the threat. But it's certainly doable and they're very professional, and you can see from the results, they're very good at it.
Q: The 10,000 refugees you referred to that the UNHCR has just found. Where were they?
Major General Wald: I understand they were in Macedonia.
Q: Were they--how were they..
Major General Wald: You can imagine, we're talking 1.2 to 1.4 million with-- I don't know if the miscounted or didn't have a chance to count all of them. There's a massive amount of refugees that Milosevic has caused here, and it takes time.
Thank you very much.
Q: Ken, there's a report in a British newspaper today that the French are being cut out of strategic planning in this whole operation because some officials at NATO are afraid that the information might find its way back to Belgrade. Have you heard anything on that?
Mr. Bacon: The report is not correct. First of all, French forces are flying over exactly the same threats our forces are and the other allied forces are, so we're comrades in combat and comrades in facing a threat.
Second, the French forces are the second largest forces in the NATO package. They've made the second largest contribution after the United States. So they're fully integrated into Operation Allied Force. They participate in the planning and the execution of NATO strike missions. French commanders receive exactly the same information and treatment that other members of the alliance receive. U.S. and NATO commanders have complete confidence in the way the French are performing their missions against the forces that Mr. Milosevic has used to attack and brutalize the people of Kosovo.
Q: Could you comment on how the Pentagon is concerned about the families of the soldiers who were captured and the latest news that the soldiers will not be released?
Mr. Bacon: It's unfortunate that the Yugoslavs have not released those three prisoners of war. We believe they should not be held, and they should be released, and we've said that from the very beginning and nothing has changed. So it is too bad that the mission by the Cypriot parliamentarian did not succeed.
The Army has been working with the soldiers' families. It's kept them well informed of what's going on. We all hope that they'll be home as soon as possible, but we've made it very clear from the beginning that these soldiers should be released without condition and that remains our view.
Q: How credible do you regard the reports of the atrocities against the women? Have you had dozens of corroborating witnesses? Are you just starting to hear about it?
Mr. Bacon: We think this is a reliable report, but it is not completely confirmed yet. Two things I think make it reliable. One is the source, and I can't get into details about that. But two, it fits a pattern that we've seen in the Balkans before. It's a very disturbing pattern, but we've seen it before, and there's no reason to believe that it wouldn't be happening again.
Also, we do have other reports of other types of atrocities -- shootings, mass shootings, etc. But this is the first report I've seen about forced rapes and the killing of women in this situation. As I say, it's very disturbing, and we'll look further into it.
Q: It's a single source at this point?
Mr. Bacon: At this stage, it is, yes.
Q: How many women are said to be involved and being herded into this camp?
Mr. Bacon: I don't have an answer to that. All I know is we have reports that as many as 20 may have been killed.
Q: How many U.S. planes are flying in this operation now? And can you approximate the breakdown, what percentage of planes are American...
Mr. Bacon: We're not going to get into percentage breakdowns, but the U.S. has--I haven't done a count recently--but I think it's probably now around 220 or 230 planes in the operation.
Q: All combat planes?
Mr. Bacon: No, they're not all combat planes. We have--I'll get you--It's about 220 to 230 U.S. planes.
Q: It was 230 before the carrier...
Mr. Bacon: I'm sorry. That's why I have to look up this number, which I don't have right here in front of me. We'll get you the number. Rather than fumble around, we will get you the exact number.
Q: When you first told us about the rapes you said, I don't have the exact, but you indicated you had eyewitness anecdotal accounts of it, then you said we have means to confirm this sort of things, which implied to me you had some intelligence sources.
Now you just say you have one source, and--are you back on an intelligence source, or do you have anecdotal accounts or what?
Mr. Bacon: We have a report that we believe is reliable, and we are in the process of looking for ways to verify this. And the ways we have primarily involve interviewing people as they come out, and interviewing. That's it, basically, interviewing people as they come out. So we will continue to try to nail this down. I list it only as a very disturbing report of some of the conditions that may be occurring in Kosovo now.
Q: Is the allegation that these are army, MUP, or paramilitary?
Mr. Bacon: It's an army training camp.
Q: The FBI about three days ago sent out a message to U.S. defense contractors warning that there's a potential threat to U.S. military personnel in the United States from Serbian national attacks. Was the Pentagon aware of this, and are you taking any increased steps of security at U.S. bases because of it?
Mr. Bacon: First of all, you're absolutely right, that this is an FBI issue. They're in charge of security in the United States and dealing with potential terrorist acts in the United States. Having said that, all intelligence information like this is passed on to local commanders, and they take appropriate actions to improve force protection if necessary.
Q: Have you heard any more about the Serb army using human shields over there?
Mr. Bacon: We hear accounts that they are, but we don't have--again, it's the same process of verifying, that they're doing that. But we certainly hear that they have surrounded military vehicles with civilians; they've put their military vehicles around schools and hospitals and other places to complicate targeting. They know that we're trying to hold civilian casualties to a minimum, and they're trying to exploit that compassion to their own benefit.
Q: Can we go through the ground combat troop thing again? Is there any planning yet underway for sending in U.S. and/or NATO troops in anything less than a permissive environment?
Mr. Bacon: I am not aware that there is at this stage.
Q: When the language changes from NATO peacekeeping force to international security force, what's the significance of the change in those words?
Mr. Bacon: I think I'll let you read into--you guys are skilled at parsing language. But the fact of the matter is that the President has been very clear about the circumstances under which we would send ground troops into Kosovo, and that is not as an invasion force, but as a peace enforcement force.
Q: The NATO spokesman, Jamie Shea, has started talking about going in after a cessation of hostilities, which sounds a little bit different than a totally permissive environment. You could have a cessation of hostilities if the Serb army were simply no longer able to fight, but you wouldn't have their permission to go in.
So it does seem that this thing is sort of creeping along toward going in in something other than a NATO peacekeeping force.
Mr. Bacon: The fact is we have not had a complete cessation of hostilities at this stage, so I think that that set of circumstances doesn't yet exist.
What we have had, I think, is a very clear statement of the conditions that are required,the political conditions or diplomatic conditions that we're aiming for, and we're trying to use military force as a means to achieve those ends. Two of those ends are cessation of hostilities and withdrawal.
Q: And permission. You need all of them.
Mr. Bacon: We have said that we would send in, that he has to agree to a NATO peacekeeping force.
Q: None of those three conditions -- cessation of hostilities, withdrawal, he has to agree. None of those have changed.
Mr. Bacon: They have not. They remain, the conditions.
Q: You're not planning for any other eventuality.
Mr. Bacon: We are planning to continue this air campaign until it produces the political or diplomatic requirements that we've stated many times.
Q: Ken, General Wald mentioned that some bombs had been targeted against bunkers. Have any munitions yet been targeted against bunkers that might be used by civilian political leadership?
Mr. Bacon: One of the ways that--he described bombs from a B-2 which are the JDAMS, the Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which can be targeted to a number of different places at once. One of the ways in which they have been used is against ammunition bunkers in ammunition storage facilities where the bunkers can be spread out over a large area.
Q: That wasn't the answer to my question. Have any been used...
Mr. Bacon: ...been used against bunkers. Yes. They've been used against ammunition bunkers.
Q: Have any of them been used against bunkers that might be used by the political civilian leadership of Serbian...
Mr. Bacon: I don't think I'll get into targets like that, but to the extent that bunkers are used in the command and control system and we're targeting the command and control system, they would be logical targets.
Q: A few days ago you seemed almost prescient in your expectation that Mr. Milosevic was going to offer a gesture -- this was before he tried the ceasefire...
Mr. Bacon: I'm out of prescience.
Q: Now there are predictions or projections that there will be a ceasefire "two," or some other political gesture. Do you anticipate that? Is this something, again, that he may try? Do you have any reason to believe or suspect that this is going to happen?
Mr. Bacon: I don't have any firm reason to predict that, but there are some signs that, increasing signs I would say, that the campaign is having an impact. And many of those Admiral Wilson detailed yesterday. But we are seeing indications that some, I mentioned earlier that we're seeing indications that the people are resisting call-ups for the reserves. We're seeing some signs that people are leaving the country to ride out the war, particularly draft-age or army-age men, leaving to go to other countries in the area to reduce their exposure to being drafted or having to go into combat. Certainly we're beginning to pick up signs that the fuel is flowing more slowly, that we are interrupting and suppressing the fuel supply and making sustainment much more difficult. I think also President Milosevic cannot help but be impressed by the consistency and the resolve of the NATO campaign. It has continued; it has grown in power and force, and by all accounts, it will grow even further. That's why General Clark is requesting more planes, so he can accelerate the campaign and keep the pressure on.
So there's every reason to believe that it would be a sensible decision for him to look for some way to end this.
But remember, we're very clear about what the political requirements are, the five standards for ending this. The military campaign is a means to reach those standards, but I can't predict what's going to happen over the next couple of days.
Q: The reporters who were traveling with the Secretary of Defense were told that the delegation that went to Belgrade to try to secure the release included a doctor, a nurse. We were told there were plans underway to get (inaudible) into Cypress.
In hindsight does the Pentagon now feel it was a mistake to take the effort by the delegation so seriously?
Mr. Bacon: I don't think so. I think we have an obligation to take every effort to free POWs seriously, and we took this one seriously. We hoped it would be successful, and I understand that the Cypriots think there may be a chance of success in the future. But so far this hasn't worked out. We've been very clear these men should be released, and they should be released without condition.
Q: You said earlier the Serbs tried to exploit NATO's effort to avoid civilian casualties, and I think you said by placing civilians in areas around military targets.
Mr. Bacon: No I said--well, they do that, but they also place military equipment around civilian installations such as schools or hospitals.
Q: You're not saying they're putting civilians close to military targets as a human shield tactic.
Mr. Bacon: I was talking more about putting military equipment near civilian targets.
Q: Ken, the General said that General Clark has asked for dozens of aircraft, and he said, as the Pentagon has noted before, that (inaudible) would for it. Do you fully expect the Secretary to approve this request?
Mr. Bacon: General Clark has said publicly that he's received approval for every request he's made. Secretary Cohen said in Brussels that he will approve requests made by the CINC to carry out his campaign. So I would anticipate that this request will be granted when the review is complete, and I would anticipate that happening soon.
Q: Boris Yeltsin said this morning that he warned the U.S. and Germany that if Russia is brought into this war, there will be a war in Europe and possibly a world war. What's up with that? Is he backing off Russia's commitment not to get involved here? Or did he say what the conditions are that would draw Russia into this conflict?
Mr. Bacon: President Yeltsin has said that Russia does not plan to get involved, and we take that statement very seriously. And we...
Q: But have you approached that with...
Mr. Bacon: I guess I'll leave that to the Kremlin to do that.
Q: I'm sorry, can I ask you just to go back to the Apaches, because I got confused. There's a C-17 being loaded in Ramstein. Is that support equipment for Task Force Hawk?
Mr. Bacon: Yes. C-17s yesterday left Ramstein -- they did not all land because of bad weather -- for Tirane. So equipment is starting to be shipped down for Task Force Hawk. That will continue. It's going to require a substantial number of planes. I think I said last week that there were three ways to get the Task Force Hawk down there. One was self-deployment of the helicopters, a second was to fly down everything or part of it, another was to put it on rail, take it to Italy, and use ferries. General Clark has decided that he wants all of this to be done by air, so the current plan is that the helicopters, some of the helicopters at least, maybe all, will self-deploy at the appropriate time. Prior to that, support equipment, security equipment, and other equipment has to arrive. That's what started going yesterday.
Q: May I just follow up. Were the launchers, the MLRS launchers on these initial flights? And does this aircraft then have to turn back and come back to Ramstein?
Mr. Bacon: I think that four out of five planes were able to land yesterday. I don't know whether the fifth left or where it was in its flight profile at the time. There are other planes scheduled to go today, and I don't have a report, a contemporaneous report, on whether they went or not.
Q: Were the MLRS on there or...
Mr. Bacon: I don't believe they were on the initial ones.
Q: Ken, can I follow that?
Mr. Bacon: Sure.
Q: There's been a lot of confusing reports during this sort of ten-day period between when General Clark first asked for the Apaches and yesterday when equipment started moving. Can you clear up for us just what was taking place in those ten days?
Mr. Bacon: There were a number of decisions that had to be made about the placement of them. He made the request prior to going through the whole process that's required, filing a concept of operations and other things. We wanted to make sure that the force package including the protection end of the force package was right. In the end, he has gotten what he asked for.
I also think that having talked to General Clark about this, that even if the Apaches were there today, they probably wouldn't be used immediately. We're still working on the air defenses, and we will continue to pummel the air defenses in order to create the optimum conditions for the Apaches to work.
Q: Can you respond to criticism by General Joulwan that the traps should have been run on this previously. That the kind of planning and decision-making could have been done in advance so you could have, in effect, started that moving immediately when he wanted them?
Mr. Bacon: I think it's very clear that this campaign started with a great deal of assets, and we have adjusted the campaign to fit conditions as we've gone along. General Clark has asked for equipment when he needed the equipment. Had the Apaches been there as part of Task Force Hawk on the very first day of the attacks, they would not be used. They would not have been used because the conditions aren't right.
He's confident that when the time comes for the Apaches to be used, they will be there and ready to go.
Q: Given the improvement in the humanitarian situation, will it still be necessary for the NASSAU ARG to remain beyond its schedule? And as a related question, with all the emphasis on the Apaches, you do have some helicopters that the Marines consider very capable attack helicopters sitting on the NASSAU. Why aren't they being used?
Mr. Bacon: As I tried to explain, I don't believe General Clark yet thinks the situation is right for using helicopters over Kosovo. He's convinced that it will be and when it is, the helicopters be ready to be used. So whether they're Marine or Army helicopters I think is irrelevant at this stage.
Q: What about the Marines, the 1,200 that have gone up from Thessaloniki up to Macedonia to set up a, from the NASSAU, the MEU.
Mr. Bacon: My understanding is there are not that many. There's 101 Marines, I think, on the ground doing humanitarian work, and I believe there are 64 in a security team in Skopje.
Q: Are there plans for more?
Mr. Bacon: Not at this stage, but that can change. This is a flexible situation, and we've tried to meet the needs...
Q: Is the ARG still going to remain there?
Mr. Bacon: The ARG will remain there probably... I don't have the exact date. She's going to be replaced by a second ARG, obviously, the KEARSARGE, I believe, with the 26th MEU, Marine Expeditionary Unit. She may be there a little longer than expected, but she will be returning home.
Q: Is the success of the NATO air campaign--is that a function of, in your view, of military competence and what other factors do you see going into the fact that there's been one plane lost, and two engagements, the Iraqi and this engagement, only one plane lost, and (inaudible)
Mr. Bacon: First, I think that's a very good question. Before I answer it, let me make an announcement, that I'm supposed to make before I forget it. This announcement does involve the Air Force.
Secretary Cohen has approved the retirement of General Richard E. Hawley who is currently the commander of the Air Combat Command. He will be replaced by General Ralph Eberhart who currently is the vice chief of staff of the Air Force. General Eberhart, in turn, will be replaced by Lieutenant General Lester J. Lyles who is currently the head of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. He will be promoted with congressional approval to the rank of general.
Now let me answer your question.
Q: Is military...
Mr. Bacon: I remember the question.
We've said from the very beginning that there were three particular challenges in Kosovo. One was the integrated air defense system; the second was the terrain; and the third was the weather. We also said from the very beginning that this was a mission that involved risk and difficulty, and that it would take some time.
We have lost one plane -- that's one plane too many. But I do think that the performance of the allied air forces over a difficult threat environment in bad weather is a sign of their discipline, their training, the quality of the pilots, the quality of the equipment, and the quality of the planning of the missions and the command of the missions. And it's also a very, I think, encouraging illustration of what Tony Capaccio talked about earlier, and General Wald, the integration of intelligence into the cockpit as fast as possible to give these pilots the information they need to one, avoid threats; and two, to hit the targets they're going after.
Q: Is Curtis still under consideration for Air Force Secretary? Or is (inaudible)?
Mr. Bacon: My understanding is that Mr. Curtis, who was going to be the candidate to be Secretary of the Air Force, has asked that his name be withdrawn. As you have read, Mr. Curtis, while he was Deputy Secretary of Energy, was in the forefront of dealing with some of the security problems in the Energy Department and has been cited for his zeal in dealing with those problems by some of the Department of Energy investigators. He felt that the fact that his name has appeared in these stories in any capacity would lead to a lengthy protracted confirmation hearing, and he did not feel it was right for him to have to go through that and deny the Air Force a permanent secretary.
So now that he has asked that his name be withdrawn--it was not, of course, formally proposed, but it was an open secret that he was the candidate--now that his name has been withdrawn, that he has withdrawn his name, we will look for another candidate, and I hope to have something to announce about that relatively soon, but not today.
Q: Not Secretary Peter?
Mr. Bacon: We'll have more to say about that at the appropriate time, but this isn't it.
Thank you very much.