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OPERATION DELIBERATE FORCE -- PRESS BRIEFING 09 SEPT 95

Miscellaneous Directory

From: James Mitchell <jmitchel@cpo-link.eucom.mil>

Press Briefing (Update) NATO Operation Deliberate Force Allied Forces Southern Europe Naples, Italy 1700, 09 September 95 Briefer: Group Captain Trevor Murray, Chief Air Operations

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. As we've said already, we're going to take this opportunity, because it's been several days since we briefed you, to bring you up to date with our ongoing operation.

Adm. Smith, you will remember, briefed you in some detail on the 6th. Since that time, we have carried on the operation. On that day, in fact, weather impacted our operation quite severely. And that weather impact - if we take the charts here and show the next few days - on the 7th, that weather impact carried on into the morning, so we lost Strike Package Alpha you see on the left here, and all the other packages shown on this side were delayed a little, but then we carried on through and completed that sequence of attacks against the range of targets shown here. And they're very much the targets we've spoken to you before about: ammunition depots, command and control/communications nodes, storage depots, etc. But we did add to the list at that time, attacks on lines of communication, and specifically on bridges, as you know.

Carrying on into the 8th, again on the morning of the 8th, that first package was affected by weather, and in fact did not drop. We then carried on with packages Bravo and on through package Charlie. Once again, the same range of targets: ammunition depots, command and control nodes, communications sites, storage facilities, repair facilities.

That sequence carried on into the night with further package Delta, and then we moved to an attack on the air defense system - Strike Dead Eye shown there. You will remember that when we started the operation, we conducted specific attacks against the integrated air defense system. Last night, we expanded those attacks against other elements of that system and visited other areas outside the Zone of Action which we've been operating in up until now.

This morning again we recommenced with Packages Alpha and Bravo, although I have to report that once again the weather has not been kind to us, and neither of those packages were successful, and aborted due to weather. I won't go any further on that because we'd get into the area of current operations, which as you know we don't brief you on current or future.

I point out, and you'll also see on the bottom of those graphs, that we continue the full range of support operations: we have airborne close air support aircraft, airborne suppression of enemy air defense, and reconnaissance, and indeed the full range of airborne early warning aircraft, and tankers, all still operating as previously briefed. And also we continue the search and rescue operation with respect to the two downed French aircrew; that operation also continues.

Up to this morning, we have now conducted in excess of two and a half thousand sorties in Operation Deliberate Force. We continue those operations. As previously, we have a short video clip to show you this evening. We have some 5 clips of attacks on targets yesterday: some depots, some on bridges. I'll run the tape in a moment and after that I'll be happy to take your questions.

Copies of the tape will be available as previously, on a pool basis.

These as I say are attacks yesterday. The first two on an Army depot at Brod; in this first one you see two large buildings; you can see some of the cloud cover still in evidence, and as you watch you'll see two bombs strike and each of those large sheds is hit.

Again, a U.S. F-16 using precision munitions and the same complex but a different target. Once again a direct hit and a secondary from the other bomb.

Moving on, we have two clips of attacks on the Foca Bridge. In fact, they're shown in reverse order. This was the second attack, and you can see the damage on the right side of the screen from the earlier attack. We'll show you that. That attack was on the center span of the bridge ... and now the other aircraft is hitting the bridge first, from a slightly different angle.

And finally, a further bridge attack, Budimilioje bridge; an F-18Delta this time. The blipper on the target, the far side span of the bridge, and once again a hit.

That's all I have to cover by way of formal presentation. I'll be happy to take your questions.

Q: One of the questions has been going on is will we expand to civilian targets. Up until now we've been told that any bridges that have been hit have been only militarily significant, but judging by those pictures, these are larger bridges than we were originally told and one might think they have connections for civilians, correct?

A: It's almost inevitable in this sort of operation that once you start attacking bridges like that, that it is going to impact on the civilian population. We are very aware of that, but we have selected a number of targets for their military significance - that's why they were selected - for their impact on Bosnian Serb operations. And it is those bridges that we have targetted. We are aware that in almost every case when you attack a civilian bridge you are bound to impact the civilian population and I can only say that the Bosnian Serb military leadership should be aware of that as well and they should be asked about their responsibilities for that action.

Q: Can you describe to us what the military significance of those bridges is? Obviously it is impacting the civilians. How have you in anyway hurt the Bosnian Serb military by taking them out?

A: The choice of targets is subject to a whole range of factors. Id in the case of those bridges, as I've just said they are chosen for their military significance. They are intended to impede the Bosnian Serb capability to move equipment, to re-supply where we have already hurt them, to have freedom of access in areas where we wish to restrict them. That has been the military significance of the targetting of the bridges we have chosen.

Q: Do you know how many bridges you've hit up until now?

A: I can't give you a count on the number of bridges, or indeed on the number of targets. The number will be an operational matter which I wouldn't go into, but the BDA is ongoing on the result of our operation yesterday so I don't have a count for you.

Q: Do you have a better estimate of any collateral damage to the civilian populations? We keep seeing TV pictures of appartment buildings that have been blown to bits, and more civilian casualties in hospitals. What do you know about what you are accidentally hitting?

A: Our analysis, detailed analysis, continues to show us that we have not caused any significant collateral damage. We constantly monitor this, we have seen no verifiable independent reports that lead us to change that assessment. We do not believe that we have caused significant collateral damage today. Adm. Smith talked in some length about collateral damage the other day, unfortunately you can never totally eliminate that risk. But as I say again, I believe we have not caused significant damage.

Q: I know that you don't want to get into operational descriptions, but can you describe for us how much harder you are going to be hitting, and perhaps giving us some examples without giving anything away?

A: I'm not going to go into any detail, you're right. We have said that we have a range of targets; we can continue to prosecute against those targets. Adm. Smith said yesterday that we have a number of options remaining to us and we will pursue that. We've said from the beginning that we will work our way through this for as long as it takes. We have no wish for it to take one moment longer that it needs to. We would wish to stop and the answer to that is in the hands of the Bosnian Serbs.

Q: It sounded as though your first two runs this morning were completely dry holes - you dropped zero ordnance on these first two ?

A: That's true.

Q: I understand that you are still looking for the French pilots. Have you any idea what has happened to them? What's going on in fact to attenuate the required mission to hunt for the two men?

A: The search and rescue operation continues to be an integral and very important part of the mission, but, as before, I am afraid that we simply can't for operational reasons go into any aspect of that.

Q: I was just wondering if, since this operation has started, would you say you've intensified the number of sorties flown, or the intensity of the attack, or have you expanded the targets? In what way have you changed, or would you say that you have kept with the same levels the entire time?

A: It's been a graduated approach throughout. We have shown you in some considerable detail the make-up of the strike packages; as you can see from the numbers some contain greater or lesser number of targets, a greater or lesser number of air attacks. We are directing a sequence of targets as I said a moment or two ago, and continue to do so. There have been no particular peaks or troughs as yet - just different elements within that programme.

Q: But are the targets the same as the original ones? We were told that there were 25 originally.

A: No ... I think on the 6th Adm. Smith expressed that too in some detail. We have expanded beyond that. We are not pursuing numbers because it just becomes a huge calculus and we'd all get into that counting which you really wouldn't want to get into in any great detail. Just to re-cap what we said on that occasion: Some particular targets will have a number of what we call aim points within them, and so you get an expanding number of aim points in some targets. And we keep, therefore, going back to address some targets. Others, if we have reached the desired level of damage, we have no need to re-visit. So we have a range of targets, within those targets we have a number of aim points and we are working our way through that sequence.

Q: In terms of area, geographical area, has it expanded would you say?

A: No, as we said at the beginning, we have been conducting our operations in what we call the South East Zone of Action, if we can recover that board for you. We have been conducting them within the South East Zone of Action. The focus has been on Sarajevo and the Sarajevo area, but we have had targets throughout that South East Zone of Action which we have now got on the board for you. As we said in the evening when we moved to air defence targets outside that, we have stayed within the South East Zone.

Q: Can I ask you a question about the French rescue. Is it true that helicopters from NATO were shot? Not shot down, but there were some hits - from fire, shooting - on the helicopters last night or the night before?

A: I have seen the reports of that, but I really can't comment on any aspect of the on-going search and rescue operation. I'm sorry.

Q: What about the fact that missiles would have been launched by NATO airplanes that would have been illuminated in the north of Bosnia?

A: We have had aircraft that have been illuminated by early warning radar, and we have fired a number of missiles in response. We have reported that on several occasions. We haven't had any in response, in operations in the previous 24 to 36 hours. But of course the air defence attack last night involved launching a number of missiles against known targets, radar sites, and indeed some radars that have responded to our operation.

Q: How many missiles, and how many planes were involved?

A: On the raid itself there were 24 aircraft involved. I'm afraid I cannot give you a missile count on the number of missiles fired.

Q: And in which area was this?

A: Principaqlly on the air defence systems in the area North West. So we are talking about an area up here.

Q: Can you expand a little bit? You sort of basically touched on extending to a little beyond the South East Zone of Action. Can you tell me what time we started, about which strike package you started moving beyond that, and to what degree of intensity you have gone, to expand it beyond the South East Zone of Action.

A: What I'm talking about is this air defence attack here. It was conducted last night between 0225 and 0325 GMT, so up to about 0525 local this morning. It was conducted against the air defence system, as I say in that North West region.

Q: Would you discuss the rationale for why you are going after targets in other parts of the country than you have before?

A: We started out as you know with a large series of attacks on the air defence systems, but the air defence system itself as we have described is, has got a lot of redundancies, it's a very formidable system; there are lots of pieces to it. And many of those pieces are outside the South East Zone of Action. But they continue to pose a threat to our on-going operation. And so it was simply timely, because they have continued to threaten as I have said in an answer to a previous question, to address that threat and risk to our crews.

Q: Could you tell us what you think the situation now is, with this integrated air defence system. What is its capability, and what is the threat to you, and also could you address the threat of things like shoulder-launched missiles?

A: Certainly. I can't go into too much detail of our battle damage assessment for operational reasons. We have inflicted damage on that system, but as I said, and as we have said previously, the nature of the system has a deal of redundancy in it. They have a number of work-arounds in it. They have repair capabilities within it. So our assessment is that it continues to pose a formidable threat to us. And that is the fixed and mobile SAMS, and the radars and the associated control and reporting points. They are still functioning, and still pose that threat. Going to the second part of your question, MANPADs throughout the Theatre continue to pose a threat. Now, it is only in the lower levels that that is so, but they are there in vast numbers, and we conduct our operations with those, the presence of MANPADs in mind, and you know we had the aircraft lost to a MANPAD; that threat continues throughout the Theatre.

Q: I'm just wondering how the switch over to the USS America is going to change operations. Do the pilots on the America need time to get used to the Theatre, or a training period, or are things going to continue on exactly as they have?

A: We have been conducting operations under Deny Flight, as you know, for a long time and crews and squadrons and units, including carriers, rotate in and out of the operation absolutely routinely. As you would expect there is a training, a work-up period for all crews, a brief period for all crews. But in operational terms that transition is effectively seamless.

Q: If I can take you back to the issue of going after air defence systems in the western part of the country. To what degree is this connected to reports that a number of NATO aircraft were lit up? Is this a response to it or did they happen at the same time?

A: It is not direcly related in the sense that I think you mean, we have had instances, throughout, of that system challenging our aircraft. Indeed, as you know, we have had aircraft shot down by that system. We have been aware of its presence, we have monitered it continuously. Given the tempo of the operations we are now conducting, having that system still intact poses a continuous threat, as I have said, so we are addressing that threat.

Q: Can you give us some assessment of what kind of response you are getting from the Bosnian Serbs. Have you heard anything in the last 24 hours that would indicate that any of this is having any impact on the behaviour of either the government or the Bosnian Serb military?

A: To take perhaps the easy part of that first. It is certainly having an impact, we are certainly having an impact on the Bosnian Serb military, there is no doubt. But to turn to your larger question; sadly, as of today, we have seen no indication at all, of any intention by the Bosnian Serb military to meet the requirements laid upon them.

Q: Could you just give us an estimate of how long you think it will take NATO to destroy, or to fulfil its mission completely? As in, the targets that you already have, how long will it take you to fulfil what you set out to fulfil?

A: No I'm not going to start getting into how many days or how many targets. We will continue the operation. As we have said, as Adm. Smith said yesterday, and I've said already today, we have a range of targets that we are working our way through. And we have scope to continue doing so for some time.

Q: But for yourself, you don't have to tell me how long it will be, but do you have an idea of - NATO, does it already have an idea of how long it will take, or are you just blindly going ahead for as long as it takes?

A: We are certainly not blindly going ahead (laughter!). We are carrying on. Our aim is to meet the military objective which we were given. And that military objective is very clear. And the meeting of that objective is totally in the hands of the Bosnian Serbs. But we are prepared to carry on until we meet that objective.

Q: Can you tell us which is the more likely scenario at this point. That strike aircraft will go off both the Roosevelt and the America for this operation, or that the Roosevelt will completly hand over to the America and it will switch from one to the other?

A: The two will normally effect the transition from one to the other.

Q: So it's not likely that the two will be flying strikes at the same time?

A: We can't anticipate that at the moment.

Q: Are you thinking of extending your targets to something more strategical than bridges, communication means, like heavy weapons, or do you not want target the heavy weapons, or do you want to be rougher, stronger?

A: Heavy weapons as an entity have always been an element in our targetting process. And we will take the opportunity to attack heavy weapons when it presents itself, but as we have explained previously using air to attack individual heavy weapons - and bearing in mind the definition in some cases of a heavy weapon can be a very portable mortar that can set up, fire and move on - it is not necessarily very cost effective to try and individually chase that sort of a weapon. Hence our approach has been to rather go for the direct and essential military support, and the nuts and bolts that make the operation of that weapon possible, and hence you see the sort list that we have shown you: command and control centres, communcations, storage and repair facilities, ammunition depots and now indeed lines of communication. So we are going after those targets rather than chasing individual heavy weapons, but heavy weapons remain a viable target for us when that is possible.

Q: Could you follow up again on - I know you don't want to get into this - but there's been some speculation that you will eventually move on to military personnel in your targetting. Is that something that you can see or are you still ruling that out?

A: We are really not going to comment on future targetting. Other than the broad statement I have made, that we have a range of targets. And we will continue to prosecute against them, but I am really not going into any detail.

Q: Can I ask about this missile incident this morning; the UN reported that there were 6 missiles fired at a NATO aircraft? Has that ever been sorted out, do you know what happened there?

A: We have seen those reports and we have investigated those reports. We've got no independent corroboration of that, none of our crews reported being attacked, they had no visual sightings of any attacks nor any other indications of attack. None of our aircraft were damaged. So we haven't been able to tie that one down; we have no confirmation of that attack.

Q: Can you tell me how many aircraft are involved since the beginning of the Operation Deliberate Force, and how many strike missions have they done?

A: Overall, strike missions we've done a touch over 2500 sorties. I would have to guess a little bit and say that that is probably something in the region of about 1700 to 1800 strike sorties. But that I would emphasise is a very rough estimate on my part from looking at the figures. In total we have over 270 aircraft available to us to conduct the mission. That figure varies day-by-day, but it's about 270.

Q: Is that 270 strike aircraft?

A: No 270 in total.

Q: [inaudible] how many?

A: About 270 are available to us on a day by day basis. The figure varies slightly; we've already discussed carriers coming and going, squadrons coming and going; but today it is about 270 aircraft, in total.

Q: Can you just expand on the differences between the various strike packages - Bravo, Charlie - all these names. Is that just names?

A: That's NATO sequencing. Alpha, Bravo, Charlie through the day, A-B-C as a sequence of packages, a name to identify them.

Q: I don't know if you have already answered the question, but according to Serbs a hospital was hit by NATO airplanes. What can you tell us about that?

A: We have no verification that that was hit by NATO at all. That was a Serb report that we have seen. But as I said earlier, we have got no indication that we have caused any significant collateral damage, including hitting that alleged hospital.

Q: Can you tell us whether any NATO aircraft attacked a target - anything - near that area?

A: No, I'm not going to get into details of targets. I think it was clear on the report that we saw that there was a target not far from that site. But we have targets throughout the area, and many of those targets will be close to civilian areas. We're aware of that, and we'velked about the risk of collateral damage previously, in some detail. Where we are in any way concerned about the risk of collateral damage, then we have withheld such targets from the list.

Q: Just so I can be sure, although there was a target not far from that area, can you say categorically that there were no NATO strike aircraft in that area at the time that it's being reported that this hospital was hit? Can you say that categorically?

A: I can't say that categorically because I'd have to go back and look at all the facts. So I can't say that. But we have no evidence at all that any NATO aircraft were involved in the damage to that hospital. I can say that categorically.

Q: This is going to be a naughty one, but: people are getting impatient. They say, "Wy this gradual build up? Why not just go in and wham them?"

A: "Why not just go in and wham them"? We've always said it would be a graduated response. We don't want to do a deal of damage. We want to bring this matter to a close with the minimum pain concerned,for everybody concerned - the Bosnian Serbs, for NATO indeed, and for everybody. We don't want to go and do this attacking for one minute longer than we need to. And so we would hope that the Bosnian Serbs would come to an end on this sooner rather than later.

Q: Just a "big picture" question. If as you say, NATO does not want to continue attacking any longer than is necessary, can you explain to me what is the reasoning behind this increased number of sorties - certainly the increased number of strikes - for the past couple of days? Is it truly because the weather has finally permitted it? Or has there been some degree of intention towards a more robust approach to striking Bosnian Serb targets?

A: I think we've shown from the beginning that this is a sequenced thing, and I think if we went back and counted the figures day-by-day, there would be some big days and some small days. That's in the sequencing. It has been impacted by the weather, and there's been no doubt about that, and our ability to pursue and work through ranges of targets has been affected by that. But our laying down of those ranges of targets, and our working our way through them, has been a steady progression. And we have not aimed to have any particular feat to trump.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

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