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Secretary Perry comments on F-16 missile firings in Iraq - Nov. 4, 1996

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry
November 04, 1996 11:50 AM EDT

Monday, November 4, 1996 - 11:50 a.m.

outstanding civilian employers of the National Guard and Reserve with the Employer Support Freedom Award.)

Q: Yes sir. I was wondering if you might not comment on the two missile firing incidents in Iraq? Also Iraq said over the weekend that the first incident didn't even occur and its a ploy by the Administration to win the election.

A: The incident did occur. There was... In both cases, the F-16 warning gear alerted it that it was being tracked by a surface-to-air missile system, and therefore -- appropriately -- according to our rules of engagement, they launched a HARM missile, a radiation-seeking missile, towards the source of that radiation. That happened on both occasions -- very similar circumstances.

Because the collateral information we have has not provided full support as to exactly what happened, we have begun an intensive investigation of that. That will be underway... It's already underway and will continue on in the days ahead.

As this investigation gets more definitive information, we will brief you and give you the full details of what we know. But what I know right now is what I described to you. These incidents did happen. There were two instances, where F-16s' warning gear alerted them that they were being tracked by surface- to-air missile radar, and that they did launch HARM missiles. But beyond that, what the additional facts are, we do not know at this time and that's what the purpose of this investigation is.

Q: Mr. Secretary, is Saddam playing cat and mouse games here? Or is there a possibility that there's just faulty gear giving false signals?

A: I cannot give you the answer to that at this time, Suzanne. Obviously, we want very much to get the answer to that question. That is the purpose of this detailed investigation. As soon as we have, as soon as I can confidently tell you precisely what was happening here, we will let you know. What I've described to you so far is what we know for sure. We're not satisfied with that level of information so we do have an intense investigation.

Q: (Inaudible) to the point where it's worrying you?

A: No.

Q: Is Saddam behaving himself in the south, or is he moving around his missiles, continue to rebuild those air defense sites? What's he doing?

Q: What kind of activity down there?

A: It has been actually in the last week or two, quite quiet down there. That's one of the factors we're looking at in the investigation. There was no precursor that would suggest any particular activity was going to happen.

Q: Any BDA from there, what the missiles actually hit?

A: No, we do not have that yet. That will be, again...

Q: Will the United States retaliate further now that Iran has reconstituted these missile defense and is threatening U.S. pilots?

A: We will continue to operate Operation Southern Watch. We continue to have a large number of sorties to cover the regions south of the 33rd degree parallel every day. We will continue those missions. They will continue with the rules of engagement that they now have. Those rules of engagement are that if their warning equipment on the airplane indicates that they are being tracked, they are authorized to launch anti- radiation missiles at the site. Those rules of engagement continue.

Q: Were either of these two incidents in the new, expanded no-fly zone? Or were they both below the 32nd?

A: They were both just below the 32nd parallel.

Q: Any further warning for Saddam Hussein?

A: Saddam Hussein has a very clear warning already, Ed, from the fact that we conduct 100 sorties a day over this area; we conduct them with airplanes that are very well armed and quite capable of taking care of themselves.

Thank you very much. I will get more definitive information to you as I get it.

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