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Joint Staff Briefing on OPERATION ALLIED FORCE

Presenters: Vice Adm. Scott A. Fry, Joint Staff Director of Operations
March 30, 1999 5:20 PM EDT

Vice Adm. Scott A. Fry, Joint Staff Director of Operations Rear Adm. Thomas R. Wilson, Joint Staff Director of Intelligence

Mr. Bacon: We have Vice Admiral Scott Fry, who is the Director of Operations on the Joint Staff, and Rear Admiral Thomas Wilson, who is the Director of Intelligence on the Joint Staff. Each one has a brief presentation which they'd like to make without questions, and then they'll answer questions after the presentation is over.

We have some charts which we'll hand out later if you haven't gotten them already. We'll have some time for questions after their presentations.

With that, Admiral Fry?

Vice Admiral Fry: The first chart that I wanted to talk to was the mission to conduct air operations throughout Yugoslavia, to degrade the capability of both the special police and the military to conduct repressive actions against the Kosovar Albanians. That was the mission that we started with. That's the military mission that continues today.

In execution of that mission, these are the target sets that we have been attacking from day one. The air defense system, the integrated air defense system in Serbia is very robust. We need to grind away at this system to set the conditions for operations both in progress and in the future. The command and control, to degrade the ability of the leadership to control their forces. Conducting attacks against the army and the special police to degrade their ability in the field to conduct repressive actions. Then into some industry targets so that he cannot repair or manufacture new weapons.

These targets we have been attacking, as I said, from night one with an eye towards working against his ability to sustain the operations.

Next slide.

General Shelton said from the start that the Serbs had two main allies. One of them is the geography, and the other is the weather. What we have here is a chart of the weather conditions in the region since the commencement of operations.

We're using the red/yellow/green stoplight charts that the military has such great affinity for. Green is 25,000 feet or with better than five miles of visibility; yellow is over 10,000 feet better than three miles of visibility; and red is less than 10,000.

As you can see on night one of the operation, we were able to complete every mission without the impact of weather. But as the operation has continued, the weather has gotten more difficult with each succeeding night, and we have had instances where sorties were unable to complete their missions in their target areas because they were weathered out.

Next slide.

I wanted to put a chart up so that we could have a reference to the level of effort that's involved here in the geography so that we could understand that if the target area were in northwestern Georgia the kind of distances these pilots are flying to complete these missions, from the Dakotas, if you will, from Aviano on the border between Missouri and Arkansas, etc. This complicates the problems. There is a complex tanker regime involved to make sure these missions are completed.

That's my last slide.

Rear Admiral Wilson: Good afternoon. It's good to see you again.

I'm here to talk about battle damage assessment and then any questions you may have on the forces that we're attacking and the nature of the threat that we're facing. This is a functional assessment now after the period of the campaign which has been ongoing. I'll address the same sets that Admiral Fry addressed. He talked about the objectives, and I'll try to describe how we're doing.

With regard to air defense, the most important thing is to be able to operate in the environment and conduct the attacks with a minimized, as minimal risk as possible. Our assessment is that the increasing physical damage that we're doing to the air defense systems -- and by that I mean the early warning radars, the surface-to-air missile radars, the fighter aircraft and things which threaten us -- are increasingly complementing the very strong suppression of the air defenses which is ongoing at the time of the strikes -- jamming, electronic warfare, and other kinds of tactics and techniques that we use.

So this continuing degradation of his air defense physically, along with the suppression, is allowing the conduct of these operations in what is a very robust and redundant air defense environment, and one that has been described by the Chairman and the Secretary of Defense as a very dangerous and capable air defense system.

The strikes have severely damaged his surface-to-air missile support facilities, the ones that give them the sustainability to conduct air defense operations with their missile systems over a long period of time. And over half of his advanced fighters -- by that I mean the MiG-29s -- have been destroyed either in air-to-air combat by the NATO force or on the ground. In addition to that, we've destroyed a number of other aircraft on the ground that could be used for ground attack operations, and there's other fighters as well, including MiG-21s.

We're also working on the command and control systems. By that we not only mean the national command and control, but the command and control of the military, the police -- which we call the VJ and the MUP, in case I drop into one of those acronyms -- and the integrated air defense system or the IADS.

We are clearly degrading that, although it is still an effective system that we have to deal with and continue to work on in support of our operations.

We believe that attacks on certain kinds of facilities have damaged his intelligence capability, which allows the Serbs to be able to get more information about our operations and is of concern to us that we continue to degrade his ability to conduct intelligence collection and to conduct warning for his forces.

We are increasingly going after the army and the police, and especially those which are in Kosovo and the Kosovo region. We started by attacking garrisons and the support structure which support these forces in the field or in their garrisons, and subsequently have gone into attacks on deployed forces or forces in their staging areas or on the staging areas themselves.

These are an ongoing set of targets that will be struck and restruck until we believe that we are achieving the desired level of degradation and degrading the support and the sustainability. In fact we believe that the degradation already on sustainability, and particularly on his ammo depos and ammo supplies, will reduce the operational endurance of the military and the police forces which are conducting operations. Also, the infrastructure which supports his air activity has been damaged or degraded, as have the attack aircraft which I mentioned earlier have been destroyed.

Finally, these industry targets, the capability to repair and fix both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, have been significantly degraded, as has the ability to produce ammunition as well as store ammunition in the country.

Next chart.

One of the questions has been, what are we actually attacking in the Kosovo region or in the region around Kosovo which are conducting the operations against the Kosovar Albanians.

I just wanted to show you the array of targets which has been struck. You can see the coding on here for the army bases, the police bases. Often they are collocated with headquarters and support elements at the same facilities. We've attacked both headquarters for the VJ and the MUP as well as the individual and common sustainment mechanisms which support them in the field.

So you can see that significant attacks have occurred around, throughout Kosovo. And in particular I'd highlight the ammunition depots in Kosovo and outside of Kosovo as well as the ammunition storage and plant up here have all been successfully attacked.

You see on here that we are attacking deployed forces in staging areas. This is a highly mobile force. They're operating for the most part with armor and mech company-sized battle groups supported by infantry and especially by police. So they're heavily dispersed, and we continue to attack those forces or the sustainment mechanisms in the field. They go from the garrison to the field where they have bivouacs set up, ammunition and fuel. All of these are subject to attack to try to degrade the capability and degrade the ability to sustain operations.

Next chart.

Now I'd like to go through some photographs with you to show you some of the damage which has been achieved against certain target sets in the couple of days or the last week, actually. We don't have much imagery from the last couple of days because the very weather conditions that Admiral Fry mentioned impeded operations also significantly impedes our ability to conduct imagery of this type.

This is the Danilovgrad SA-6 SAM site. It's a facility where they store SA-6 missiles. This was attacked by CALCMs delivered by B-52s. You can see this storage and maintenance shed, and these storage and maintenance buildings here have been damaged or destroyed. That's an example from the air defense systems.

Next slide.

Here's an example from the national command and control. It's a communications station in Kosovo itself which is fundamental to helping command and control their forces. This was attacked also by CALCMs and by NATO aircraft, and these were the target areas, the control buildings and the key operations buildings right here. And they sustained probably a functional kill.

Next slide.

Here's an example of an army garrison in Pristina. These are barracks buildings here. This is the headquarters for the military police or the MUP, the ones that are primarily responsible for a lot of the killing in the cities which occurred last summer and is occurring again, and this was destroyed by TLAM missiles, or heavily damaged by TLAM missiles.

Next slide, please.

This is one of the sustainment targets that I was talking about, the Leskovac army barracks and ammo depot just outside of Kosovo, up in the area south of Nis. We went after this with NATO aircraft. They have these bunkers which are ammunition storage. And when we attacked these, they were successfully hit with large secondary explosions indicating that large amounts of ammunition were destroyed as a part of the strike.

This is a significant facility up in the Belgrade area. It is the facility where they conduct repairs and maintenance of their fixed wing and helicopter aircraft as well as support for manufacturing and R&D, and you can see the damage here at this facility right here and these buildings over here in the yellow box.

Before I finish my presentations about damage I'd like to show you some examples of damage being done by Serbian forces in Kosovo.

This is in north central Kosovo where some of the more intensive counterinsurgency operations occurred a week or so ago, and where we have now the reports of significant numbers of the population being moved out of their villages and out of their areas. This shows the burning buildings and houses which have been set on fire by the Serb police and soldiers, as well as apparently civilian vehicles leaving the area.

Finally, down in southwest Kosovo in the city of Dakovica. This is a small town in the area which is primarily Kosovar Albanian. We saw imagery that showed fires burning here. The next day we see all this smoke, coupled with other kinds of reports that we're getting out of this area. It leaves little doubt that the Serbian police and military essentially destroyed this entire area here. This road you can see. The houses without roofs that have been burned and destroyed, around behind this mosque here they have burned and destroyed. And in imagery just a day or so ago we noticed that this mosque here had also been torched and was destroyed.

That's one of the things that is of great concern to us is obviously the fact that the destruction is being done by these forces in Kosovo. I wanted to point that out as well as the battle damage.

That concludes my briefing, we'll turn it over to your questions.

QAdmiral, you mentioned the damage to the air defenses of course that we've been working on since the beginning. Can you for the first time give us a little more quantification of the degree to which it's been degraded? Is it 50 percent effective? Is it 90 percent? Can you give any other way of quantifying the damage?

Rear Admiral Wilson: I don't think I can quantify it as a percentage destruction right now. It's a very large and robust target set.

What I would say is that we are increasingly taking out key parts of the air defense system through physical damage. At the same time, we have been operating in the system now for a week. We have increased confidence of the ability that the physical damage combined and leveraging with the suppression tactics and techniques we're using, that we can operate and conduct attacks against our targets.

QAny SAM missile batteries, for example?

Rear Admiral Wilson: Yes, we have.

QCan you say how many roughly?

Rear Admiral Wilson: I'm not going to go into numbers.

QAdmiral Fry, can you tell us, we're a week into the campaign now. Any plans to stand down or halt for a day or two? And two, why aren't the A-10s being used in what they're designed for, to take out tanks and armor? They're, we're told, flying CSAR. Why are they doing that?

Vice Admiral Fry: Let me answer question one. There is, to my knowledge at this point, no desire to pause or have a stand-down or wait for awhile. This campaign is one of keeping the pressure on the target sets that Admiral Wilson and I have talked to. We have flown strikes for six nights, and we were going to going to continue that level of effort in servicing all of those target sets.

With respect to the A-10s, you get back to the issue of the robustness of his air defense systems. It isn't just the mobile SAMs and the communication links between them and the radars, but there are thousands of MANPADs, and once you get down below 15,000 feet with the weather as bad as it's been, but even in good weather, worse in good weather, you're going to place our pilots at a tremendous amount of risk, and we've got to weigh that as we proceed with this campaign.

QThe surface-to-air missile, the shoulder-fired SA-7s, are going to be there in profusion, so you're really never going to get to the point, are you, where you've got the air defenses eroded to the point where it's safe for them to go in?

Rear Admiral Wilson: It's not safe to go in there now. We're going in a very heavy air defense system, and we are doing our best and are very successfully degrading and suppressing it while we go in.

When you degrade the ability to cue tactical systems such as the SA-7s, then you increase your ability to operate in different environments and different altitudes. It's obviously of increased danger when you're down lower, and we have to make the determination that we can conduct the operations with the appropriate amount of risk for the situation.

QAdmiral Fry, can you describe in precise terms, if you would, the number of sorties, ground attack sorties on targets on the ground that have had to be called off because of weather? Secondly, how many perhaps were diverted to secondary targets?

Vice Admiral Fry: I'm afraid I can't get into that level of detail right off the top of my head.

QCan you talk in --

Vice Admiral Fry: I'd prefer not to even approximate it.

Q...at all? A handful of flights, a significant number of flights? There's only one full day where you've got all green, and every other day there is largely yellow or red.

Vice Admiral Fry: Even on the worst days, we've been able to use some precision weapons -- TLAMs, CALCMs. We have been able to get strikes in on every day. But as far as characterizing the percentages of days that we weren't able to do ground attack -- we were able to do ground attack every day. So...

QI'm talking about total number of actual missions, sorties.

Vice Admiral Fry: I don't have that information available.

QHas any of the bombing to this moment affected significantly, put a serious crimp in the ethnic cleansing? And will any of the bombing in the near future interfere in ethnic cleansing, or is that considered something that's already been done, so it's no longer an objective?

Secondly, we hear various estimates of the number of refugees. Everything from 500,000 to one million. Do you have an up-to-date figure?

Vice Admiral Fry: First of all, with respect to stopping the ethnic cleansing, we never supposed or reported that we had a silver bullet that would bring that to a halt.

Q...said that was one of our objectives.

Vice Admiral Fry: Our military objective has been the one that I put up here which is, as I can state it again, to degrade his ability to continue to conduct the repressive action. That is including his sustainment, the headquarters and the forces on the ground as we can attack them.

QSo your view is that it never was an objective to deter ethnic cleansing? Is that your statement?

Vice Admiral Fry: Our efforts, as we can pursue this objective -- if that stops the ethnic cleansing. But Slobodan Milosevic can stop the ethnic cleansing tomorrow.

QBut I just want to make clear, that was not in your mind ever a military objective?

Vice Admiral Fry: This is the military objective. From the beginning.

Q...officials cited that as an objective.

QOn your mission here, I don't mean to be impertinent, but it's an awfully convenient way of saying what your mission is. I mean you guys have degraded their capability already. You can pull out and declare success. Is there a way that you can characterize for us how much you want to degrade, what you want the Serb portions to look like when you're done?

Rear Admiral Wilson: The way I would answer that is there have been repressive actions and killings going on in the Balkans for a long time. It's going on right now, tragically. It may go on for a long time in the future if somebody doesn't try to do something about it. We may not have the silver bullet, as Admiral Fry says, that can stop it tomorrow or the next day, but our goal is to degrade this military so it is much more difficult or much less convenient for this regime to continue this campaign in Kosovo or other parts of the Balkans.

QYou've talked mostly about hitting support units here. Can you give us a sense, will it be days or a week before you start actually hitting armor and units in the field?

Rear Admiral Wilson: We're already trying to hit armor and troops in the field and we're hitting support mechanisms at bases as well as field support mechanisms where these tanks and APCs come back to refuel and reload after their patrols and after their egregious operations in these cities. So we think those are good targets, and those are the kind of targets that we can hit in the kind of conditions that we have had.

We can't measure it right now, but it inevitably has an impact on their sustainability.

QWe're hitting mostly supply units now, support units? Is that right?

Rear Admiral Wilson: The field deployed units. There might be tanks, APCs and supplies and ammos parked in these areas where we can find them.

QYou say parked, but the ones actually taking part in the cleansing...

Rear Admiral Wilson: The ones actually taking part in the cleansing may be in cities, right in the villages that may not be able to be engaged right at that very minute.

QHow long will it take before you're able to get at those targets? Any sense?

Rear Admiral Wilson: We can get the targets when they are in areas -- we locate them, if we can find them we can deal with the threat and attack them with all of the considerations that are important, including collateral damage.

QAdmiral, we've been told the Pentagon anticipated this crackdown before the airstrikes, but did you anticipate the scale of the atrocities that the Serbians are committing? And Admiral Fry, in view of the wholesale slaughter and forced exodus, is there greater pressure on the operation to move more quickly to phase three?

Rear Admiral Wilson: It's very difficult to anticipate intent. We certainly believe that the force which he built up in Kosovo and outside Kosovo in the weeks leading up to the Rambouillet talks and the subsequent talks in Paris were a significant force that could conduct actions ranging from targeting counterinsurgency and potentially the ethnic cleansing. But we did not know what he may do, and what contingency plans he had, although we were sure that he would conduct some significant operation in Kosovo in some manner of time. It was inevitable.

QHas the scale of it now caused commanders to ask for ...

Vice Admiral Fry: It would be inappropriate for me to comment on when we will or what phase we will go to next. This has been a phased campaign. We have continued with a level of effort in all of the targets, and we will continue that.

QAdmiral Fry, from what you've told me, most of the attack missions have been above 15,000 feet, but you're sending over five B-1s who are perhaps best operating low and fast. They can operate above 15,000. Are you going to use them low and fast? And secondly, is the B-1 being sent over because the Air Force is in short supply of CALCMs?

Vice Admiral Fry: The B-1 is being sent over because the theater commander has asked for it. How we're going to employ the B-1 -- it would be inappropriate for me to discuss that right now.

QDo you have any numbers for us on sorties flown to date and cruise missiles?

Vice Admiral Fry: Over 1,700 sorties have been flow to date. Cruise missiles, over 100.

QAdmiral Wilson, there have been various estimates of exactly what the Serbs have in Kosovo at the moment in terms of number of troops, armored vehicles, howitzers and so forth.

Can you give us your best estimate on how many combat troops they have in there, how many tanks, how many howitzers, and any other relevant statistics that you might have.

Rear Admiral Wilson: I would estimate that they have around 25,000 army troops in Kosovo, augmented by 12,000 to 14,000 of these special military police. They are equipped with a significant number of tanks, nearly 300 tanks, and APCs, armored personnel carriers, and approaching 200 in terms of the number of artillery pieces which they have in the area.

Q...police have these.

Rear Admiral Wilson: Most of that is the military equipment that belongs to the army and the police is largely a light infantry type that travel in trucks and other kinds of vehicles. But they operate jointly in battle groups.

QWe're now a week into the operation. A week ago would you have thought that you would be in the position you are now in? Had you thought you would have accomplished more? Had you thought that the humanitarian crisis would not have been this severe? Is this worse than you thought it was going to be a week ago?

Vice Admiral Fry: Let me answer a piece of that, and Tom can make his part. We knew from the start this was going to be difficult. We knew from the start that the Serbs had a terrific integrated air defense system, as you've heard us say many, many times. There are difficult targets. This is difficult terrain. It's mountainous; it's tree-covered. This is not the desert. The weather has not been in our favor, either. But even anticipating the worst of the weather, we knew this was going to be hard. We never anticipated that we were going to go in there in a couple of days, and this was all going to be over. This is a campaign. If we have to grind it out, and we are grinding it out with an effort, as I've said many times, into each of the target sets every night, we're prepared to continue.

Rear Admiral Wilson: I said before it's hard to gauge intent or will, but we knew it would be a difficult force to attrit fast because of the numbers, the pure numbers, and the terrain which makes it difficult to operate in and easy for these kinds of forces to hide and maneuver in.

QIs there any evidence of the use of human shields?

Mr. Bacon: We have time for one more question.

QAdmiral, you used the terms "damage", "degrade", "severely damaged". Can you define for us what you mean by that in percentage terms of their overall capability?

Vice Admiral Fry: It harks back to DESERT FOX when we talked about individual targets. It was a very different operation where we had a set number of more or less fixed facilities.

This is a very different kind of target set when you have a deployed unit.

So when I talked about damage or degrade there, I made no percentage assignments. These are functional assessments about a target set. We're not at this point doing or providing aim point by aim point physical destruction analysis because these aim points are on the move all the time and they have to be engaged and re-engaged and re-struck. I think that our crews are doing a superb job of carrying out this campaign.

Q...assessment of what his actual capability was to begin within, and you can give us some sense, if you call it damage, damage to what? Overall, is it...

Vice Admiral Fry: I think we've done significant damage to, for example, the ammunition depots and storage in Kosovo.

QCan you give us some sense of what that means? 80 percent of the capability has been degraded, or...

Vice Admiral Fry: I'm not going to assign percentages to it. But it will certainly restrain his sustainability here.

QTo what extent has weather blunted the U.S. and British arsenal of precision, laser-guided bombs? I'm thinking on F-15Es and Harriers and F-16CGs. Have they been largely away from the fight now because of the weather, or have they been engaged to a point, and you expect them to be used more?

Vice Admiral Fry: They haven't been away from the fight, but the laser-guided weapons have been the ones that have been impacted by the severe weather that we've had. But once again, we have managed to get packages into the target area ever night. Now, are we going to use more or less in the future? I don't want to characterize that, but we're going to keep, as I've said, this same kind of level of effort as we continue day by day by day to service the target sets.

Press: Thank you, gentlemen.