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Operation Deliberate Force - Transcript - Press Brief. - 12 Sep 95

Miscellaneous Directory

From: Franco Veltri <>

TRANSCRIPT Press Briefing Group Captain Trevor Murray Chief Air Operations AFSOUTH Headquarters NATO Club 1700 12 Sep 95

Group Captain Murray: Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Once again we'd like to give you an update this evening on the Deliberate Force air operations during the last 24 hours up to the period finishing at approximately midday today. The weather in the area of operations has continued fair and so we have been able to continue the pattern of operations with which you are now familiar with a sequence of packages of aircraft conducting air strikes once again against a number of targets of the kinds that we have talked about previously - ammunition depots; storage and repair facilities; command, control and communications nodes; for example. The board on my right shows the packages that ran. We talked about the first 2 yesterday when I briefed you. They ran as planned. As did package Charlie. Package Delta, later in the afternoon, was planned initially against the air defense systems but for operational reasons that was cancelled. But enabled us to re-roll a number of aircraft, and in fact, throughout the afternoon, non shown on the graphic, we had a sequence of 44 aircraft engaging some 12 targets. Once again, typically ammunition and storage depots. And that carried on through the night and once again this morning starting with a package Alpha and a package Bravo, again revisiting ammunition storage depots in both cases. And both of those also successful in engaging a number of the planned targets. Also as you can see from the board, we have continued to support our operations with a full range of support ops, combat air patrols, air defense patrols, close air support, suppression of enemy air defenses, reconnaissance, and all the other general support ops, airborne early warning, tanker operations, etc. And I'd like at this point just to emphasize the multi- national nature of this NATO air operation that is commanded by General Ryan from the CAOC in Vicenza. For example, if we can just put the first graphic back up please, yesterdays package Alpha and Bravo, package Alpha consisted of French Jaguar, UK Harrier and Dutch F-16 aircraft. Whereas package Bravo consisted of US F-14s,16s and 18s, Spanish F-18s and Italian Tornados. And indeed, the other support operations I've mentioned include all the force contributing nations. Though we haven't really mentioned routinely but they've continued to play a vital part in the day-to-day ops. For example, the Turkish F-16s routinely conducting combat air patrol, the German Tornados conducting reconnaissance missions in support of the RRF, and all the other aircraft including the multi-crewed NATO NAW. Now, initial in-flight reporting from all these packages yesterday as I have said, indicated that we achieved good results from all of them. Once again, our aircraft encountered triple A fire from particular areas but none were damaged and all returned safely. In total we have now conducted over 3,200 sorties since we started operation Deliberate Force. We don't have any video clip for you today. We have some coming through the system and we will hope to get it to you as soon as available. So I have no more announcements for you today and I'll be happy to take your questions.

AP: There are reports that the U.S. wants to move some stealth fighters into the Aviano base and that the Italian government is blocking their entrance. I'd like to know if you know anything about this and how NATO is going to react. Answer: I've seen some reports on that as I'm sure you have. I'm not going to discuss the employment of future assets and this falls into the category of future operations. As you know NATO and its participant nations have a wide array of weapons and aircraft systems available to them and we constantly keep under review what we might and might not employ. But I'm not going to address any specifics.

Reuters: I'd like to follow up on that. We have a fact sheet on the stealth bomber here in front of us. Are we supposed to be reading into that that NATO wants these bombers here?

Answer: No, I haven't said that at all. I don't know why you have a fact sheet there, but we have fact sheets on lots and lots of airplanes and lots and lots of systems. And as I've said, we keep all of those options under review. But we do not talk about what we might or might not use in the future other than to say that we keep all of those capabilities under review.

Reuters: Can I rephrase my question. This fact sheet was not here yesterday.

Answer: All I can say is that I didn't put it there today. But somebody who is talking about possible future operations may have done so, not I.

Q: (Italian translation) The question is whether you can confirm what has been reported by the U.S. media about a meeting that has taken place with the U.S. National Security Council which draws the conclusion that NATO will escalate to a higher level of action in the coming weeks.

Answer: I really couldn't comment on that, it's a purely political question of a U.S. nation. I think it's well outside my terms of reference. But I can refer you to a U.S. spokesman, I can't really address that one.

AP: I have another question on the stealth fighter. Do you think that the Serb air defense is so powerful that you would need these fighters?

Answer: You're asking me to speculate again on future operations and all I can do is to keep repeating to you that we keep all our options open. We keep our options on future weaponry, on future aircraft, on future capabilities in the light of the threat we perceive. But I'm really not going to go any further than that.

CNN: What is the age of some of the ordnance that's being deployed during operation Deliberate Force? I understand some of the walleyes are as much as 30 years old, they're from the 1960's. Because sources tell us that some of these weapons are not detonating. Do have any numbers as well as the age of some of this ordnance? But also, how well is it performing? One person told me that it was like throwing a 2,000 pound, 1 million dollar rock at the target.

Answer: I don't have numbers. I don't have numbers of total ordnance used. Nor indeed, do I have any details of age. I can say that regardless of age as you well know, all weapons anyway are subject to constant inspection and monitoring. We had some discussion at a previous briefing about the shelf life, if you like, of weapons. They are constantly kept under surveillance. They are monitored like any other piece of equipment. So there's no question of the weapons regardless of age, not being suitable for use. Having said that, we have had some reports, as we always will, that some weapons, across the range, have not exploded perhaps. But I have no specific numbers on that. Nor do I have any details at all of the age of weapons, because frankly, I think it's immaterial in terms of the fact that if they're serviced, if they're not up to date for use, they're not used.

CNN: Is there discussion at this point of expanding the airstrikes to include infrastructure targets? Is that consideration underway?

Answer: I really can't comment again. That's taking us into the area of future operations and also to a degree in a political sense in the way that you posed the question. So I really can't address that.

AP: Could you tell us if you have any more information assessment of the Tomahawk attack? Do you have exactly what targets were hit? Were any of them missed? Any thing else you may have?

Answer: No, I can't give any more detail than I previously did. We did assess that we caused severe damage to the group of targets that were attacked. But I really can't get any more detailed than that at this point.

Washington Post: I wonder if you could go back to the strike packages that you were referring to - Alpha, Bravo and so on, and talk about what was hit there. Can you elaborate a bit more on, you just said one target for a couple of the packages.

Answer: Yeah. We have been re-visiting ammunition storage areas in some depth. We've talked previously about the size of some of these targets and the number of aim points within them. So we still have a range of aim points within those broad targets. Some of them are large ammunition storage areas, equipment storage areas and repair facilities. And we are re-visiting those. So where we say ammunition depot, we say one target. I can't be specific but there may well be a number of aim points within that target. So we go back and we re-visit. And that's part of the assessment as to what needs re-visiting, which targets we have been successful on, how many more aim points there are will decide how often we go back.

Washington Post: Why can't you be specific when the Bosnian Serbs know what you did?

Answer: Yes, indeed they do, I hope. But once we start getting into number counting, we start talking about what we've hit there, or what we might hit, and we get into future operations again and you know how I am about that already today.

Reuters: I'd like to follow up first on Jim Clancy's question. NATO secretary Claes was quoted this morning by the Bosnian foreign minister as saying that NATO is ready to move into stage three which is actually striking Serb military personnel. Do you have anything to say on that?

Answer: I haven't seen that statement anywhere. I think I've seen statements about moving on or moving to stage three targets. But the details of stage three targets in the way that you put it, I've never heard put.

AP: Could you just tell us where the strikes took place this morning, or last night and this morning?

Answer: I can't go into the details. There were a number of ammunition storage areas. The two this morning were on ammunition storage areas. They're all still within that southeast zone of action. Concentrated, as I've said before, in the Sarajevo area. But throughout that southeast zone. We have not addressed any targets beyond that.

Reuters: I would like to ask, sir, why is so much re-visiting necessary? We're now up to day 13, 14 whatever it is. Do we still have the same list of 25 targets and target points? The same ammunition dumps, as my colleague said yesterday, have been hit twice a day. Why, as an outsider would say, with all the might of NATO, why is it taking so long and why do you continue to hit the same targets? Are you missing? The weather is a problem? A combination of everything?

Answer: Let me just address the 25 targets first of all. We talked about 23 and 25 in the first couple of days. We have moved on from that number. But we've ceased to be specific about it. So, I really think we can dismiss the 25 target point first of all. So the target list has expanded without getting into numbers. And within those, as I have said, there are a number of aim points. But from the very outset, we've talked about this being a graduated operation where we will try and achieve, with a minimum level of force necessary, the objectives. So we are trying to inflict damage. We're doing it we think in a very, very responsible way. We are concentrating on military important targets. We're minimizing collateral damage as much as possible. But we're doing it in a graduated way and we set out to do so from the very beginning. So, what you're seeing is a phased, graduated operation, hopefully, and as we've also said this repeatedly, we would wish to stop doing it as soon as possible. We don't want to do any more damage, drop any more bombs than we have to, to achieve our objective. But, really the response is in the hands of the Bosnian Serb military. And patently, we have not yet reached a point where they are willing to express intent or to change their attitude or to take the actions necessary to bring this thing to a close. And so we will go on working through the range of targets that we have talked about in the beginning.

Reuters: At what point was this target list expanded? What day?

Answer: It's been under constant review, almost on a day-by- day basis, between the Force Commander, UNPF, and Admiral Smith, the CINC South. And they review it, almost on a day- by-day basis and review their options for attacking targets within them.

AP: Do you have any indication yet of civilian deaths as a result of the NATO strikes?

Answer: No, we have no numbers at all. We see the Bosnian Serb claims in this respect. And see sometimes that they vary widely. We see those. We note those. But as I've said before we have no numbers, nor indeed, a phrase I've used repeatedly before, do we have any indications that we have caused significant collateral damage including fatalities. AP: But is that part of your operation? Do you go in and examine or analyze whether you have caused civilian deaths? Answer: Part of the assessment process will always be to see how effective we have been in striking the targets intended. And part of that will obviously address the accuracy and part of that in turn, we will assess whether we have caused collateral damage. And I might just add, equally that that carries right on through into the pilot delivering the weapon. If the pilot delivering the weapon against a pre-planned target, in his judgement, considers notwithstanding that he has identified target and everything else, that there is too great a risk of collateral damage, he can and will, and indeed I can say has, during this operation, decided not to drop and bring the bombs home rather than take that risk. So, at every stage from planning through to execution, that is a criteria and it's applied.

Stars and Stripes: I know that you cannot talk about or you do not have numbers for that amount of collateral damage that might have occurred. But I have heard that some reports have been discredited. Are there any reports of collateral damage that you can specifically deny or specifically say have been discredited?

Answer: I haven't got sufficient hand-on knowledge here to sort of replay various Bosnian Serb claims and deal with them. Nor have I come really prepared to say on such and such a day, they said this and we can claim we did not. I really can't address it, I can only make the general statement. And I make it against the background of those claims that as of now, standing here, we still say we have no verifiable reason to believe that we have caused significant collateral damage. So if that is a blanket statement of refutation of some of the claims, that's as good as I can do right now.

AP: I'm sorry to insist. How do you go about doing this assessment? I realize you debrief the pilots. But is there any other way?

Answer: There's a whole panoply of assessments done. It's based on inflight reports from the pilots initially made inflight having executed the mission. They then have to complete detailed reports after landing and they are analyzed. There is reconnaissance conducted of all types then against the whole of the target list. Both to update on possible future targets and indeed to examine those targets that we have already struck so that we may assess whether we need to revisit them, look at the level of damage. All of that is part of the process. Did that address the question correctly? Reuters: What's the level of compliance, if any, with the demands to move the heavy guns away from Sarajevo as of today? And secondly, do you foresee another pause coming, starting with Richard Holbrooke's mission new mission which begins, I believe, tomorrow?

Answer: The answer really is exactly the same as before, we still as of this moment have seen no intention of compliance that we can see anywhere. So as of now, nothing has changed in that respect. In regards to future pauses, I really couldn't speak to that. Once again, it treads into future operations, but more specifically, it treads into the political process that we know is running in parallel with this. But I can't really anticipate what that political process might bring.

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