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DoD News Briefing - 4 Jun 96

Presenters: Captain Michael Doubleday, USN, DASD (PA)
June 04, 1996 2:00 PM EDT

Tuesday, June 4, 1996 - 2 p.m.

I just wanted to give you an update on Dr. Perry's travels. He is today in Garmisch, Germany. At this very moment, he is participating in a reception for about 300 students at the College of Strategic Studies in Defense Economics of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. He will speak at a graduation ceremony there tomorrow. Later today, as he always does when he visits the Marshall Center, he will meet with General Joulwan and with other four-star component commanders who are over there in Germany.

Earlier today, Secretary Perry joined his counterparts in the Ukraine and Russia in Pervomaysk for a symbolic planting of sunflowers at the silo #110 site which the three defense ministers blew up in January. The Secretary also viewed a now empty nuclear weapons storage site. As we mentioned last week at the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine found itself with 2,500 tactical nuclear weapons and 1,900 strategic nuclear weapons, making it the third most powerful nuclear nation on earth. Ukraine is now free of all nuclear weapons, which is a dramatic example of preventive defense. Dr. Perry visited a housing area built through Nunn-Lugar funds in the town of Pervomaysk for missile officers who are being demobilized. There was also a signing ceremony for this year's allotment of Nunn-Lugar assistance, $43 million. That brings Ukraine's total to about $400 million.

Tomorrow, after his speech at the Marshall Center, which is open to media coverage, Dr. Perry flies to Lisbon for meetings with senior officials of the government of Portugal. And with that, I would be happy to try and answer some of your questions.

Q: Can you say any more on the shootdown?

A: I don't really have anything more on that. I think most of you know that, excuse me, I think most of you know that late yesterday Hawaii time, yesterday afternoon, there was an A- 6E Intruder which was inadvertently shot down by a Japanese destroyer during RIMPAC '96 exercises. I'm happy to be able to report that both the pilot and the bombardier-navigator ejected safely and were picked up very soon thereafter, and returned to the aircraft carrier INDEPENDENCE from which the A-6 had been operating. Both are in good condition. One has actually returned to duty at this point. The Japanese have apologized and we certainly accept their apology. This, I think, could best be characterized as a very unfortunate training accident.

Q: Do you have anything on the -- what seems to be the inexplicable story now that the U. S. plane is coming directly at the ship in daytime clearly visible with a wire on it and the drone well behind it a couple of miles at least and the plane is shot down. That seems to be --

A: No, I don't think at this point it would be useful for me to speculate on the cause of the accident. As you point out though, these training exercises -- what occurred is that the A-6 towed a target which is essentially a large sleeve and the target is normally towed between 4,000 and 5,000 yards [feet] behind the aircraft. This is a common practice and there are procedures that are established to prevent these kinds of occurrences to ensure safety. Obviously, in this particular instance, there was something that did not work in accordance with the procedures. But I think we'll have to wait for the investigation to reveal exactly what that was. Yes?

Q: Well, do you see any impact this will have on future U. S.-Japan military cooperation?

A: I don't see any impact. I think, as I said before, it was a regrettable accident and we don't see any impact on our military exercises with the Japanese.

Q: Well, what are the procedures for preventing this sort of thing?

A: Well, in general, what would normally occur is that there would be a couple of passes by the A-6 to establish its presence and to allow for the ship to become... to adjust for the target practice that is scheduled. Another thing that would normally occur would be some kind of a check-in procedure once the A-6 was overhead of the ship -- that is to say once the ship could actually see that it was above the unit that was going to be conducting the target practice. I also want to correct one other thing that I said. That tether, the link of the tether behind which the target is towed is 4,000 to 5,000 feet, not yards.

Q: Mike, were the procedures followed?

A: I can't tell you at this point. That's something that the investigation will have to reveal. Yes?

Q: Yes. What explanation did the Japanese offer for this?

A: At this point, I am not aware of any explanation. I know that both the Japan Self-Defense Force and the 7th Fleet are looking into the matter. I think we'll just have to wait until we see the results of their investigation reveal. Yes?

Q: When you say that the ship sees the aircraft, it is visually from the bridge of the ship, the target --

A: Well, the aircraft sees the ship.

Q: The aircraft sees the ship.

A: Sees it directly over the ship. But again, I think what you need to do is to wait until the investigation is done. Yes?

Q: Can you confirm it's the Phalanx that shot it down?

A: Excuse me.

Q: Can you confirm that it was a Phalanx that shot it down?

A: Yes.

Q: Is this a normal way that you train on the Phalanx systems with a tow target as opposed to a drone?

A: I can't answer the question -- what the procedures are in the fleet at this time. I don't whether this is some norm that is established. You might want to check with the Navy on that. Yes?

Q: Is there any history of some sort of mechanical problems of the Phalanx in the past that would cause --

A: Certainly, nothing that would have predicted this.

Q: Has the U. S. ever had an incident like this where the Phalanx has not functioned?

A: You might want to check with the Navy to see if there's anything that would indicate this. But I'm certainly unaware of any kind of weapon system problems.

Q: Also there's some confusion at this point as to whether it was a sleeve that was being towed which would be at about 4,000 or 5,000 feet or whether a tactical decoy which is a dummy cruise missile or silkworm missile which would trail at about 15,000 feet and would be a solid sort of international orange --

A: Yes, I can't comment. I simply don't know but I'm sure the people out in Hawaii would be able to help you. Mark?

Q: Has Japan offered to pay for the downed airplane?

A: I know that the Japanese have extended apologies. I know that there is a telephone conversation that is scheduled to occur between the acting CNO and the head of the Japan Self- Defense Force later this afternoon. I can't tell you what the contents of the call was.

Q: What is the latest price estimate on the cost of the A- 6E?

A: I'm sure you could find that from the Navy, but I don't have it for you.

Q: Will the investigation be conducted jointly?

A: Certainly, yes. If you mean a single investigation, I think there are actually two investigations that are going on. But certainly, at some point, we would want to bring in together the material that's gathered in both of those.

Q: How long do you expect that to take?

A: I can't give you an estimate at this point.

Q: Normally, the Phalanx operates on automatic. Do you know if this was operating automatically?

A: I can't tell you at this point. Certainly, that would be the kind of detail that would come out in the investigation.

Q: Has the Japanese given any indication whether there was human error involved or whether it --

A: No, to my knowledge, they have not.

Q: At this particular exercise been being performed during RIMPAC ‘96 before this incident?

A: I can't answer your question. I can tell you that RIMPAC has been going on, at least to my knowledge, since 1970. Fifteen years at least. So, its been going on for a long time. The Japanese have been participating in it. We do this -- the kinds of exercises that we're talking about here certainly within the United States Navy frequently. But I think they could offer you further guidance on whether we've done this before with the Japanese. Yes?

Q: Do you have any details about how the pilots were able to safely escape?

A: I don't, but I'm sure that you could get that from the folks in the Pacific.

Q: In all the years then that this has been going on, has there ever been an incident like this?

A: To my knowledge, no.

Q: Can you take the question?

A: The question, has there ever been an incident?

Q: Yes, can you double-check?

A: As far as I know. But I think the best place to check is in Hawaii where they run this exercise every year. They've got a full operation set up to answer your questions 24 hours a day.

Q: Where was the plane hit and how many rounds --

A: I can't tell you. I just don't happen to know. As I understand it, the aircraft was disabled to the point that the pilots felt they had to eject and did so.

Q: Do you know whether the plane was still on approach to the ship or whether it passed by?

A: I can't tell you. Don't know the position of the aircraft.

Q: You were saying inadvertent damage. But this is not a case -- this can't be a case where something else happened and the plane was hit. The plane was shot down. It was simply shot down, right?

A: Well, I'm not sure that's the correct characterization. The aircraft was hit by the fire to the point that the pilots and the bombardier navigator felt that it was no longer operable, were able to eject safely. I don't know that you would say that it was shot down. Keep in mind that when you're doing this kind of an operation, the aircraft is flying at a fairly low altitude and there may have been some requirement for them to maneuver so that they could actually eject.

Q: What was the altitude and direction?

A: I can't tell you, but normally it's fairly low. Keep in mind that the range of the CIWS is only 1.5 kilometers.

Q: The CINCPAC folks this morning said that the tether was two or three miles long. Would you say about 4,000 feet?

A: You go with what they have said. I can tell you what it normally is, but they certainly have the detail out there. Yes?

Q: When they practice exercises among the Americans, do you coordinate between the aircraft and the vessels?

A: Always, positive control. Absolutely.

Q: Was it done on this exercise between the Japanese vessel and --

A: I think you're going to have to ask the question out there, but I can't conceive a time when you would do an exercise where you would not have communications between a target unit and a ship that was going to do firing. OK. Anything else on that one? Yes.

Q: There's two articles today in the Early Bird regarding the Brown crash. One article says... implies that General Stevens, William Stevens as being relieved of duty, was made a scapegoat and the other two Air Force officers have been made scapegoats. And the article in USA Today that was in the Washington Times and USA Today, Steve said that a partner and friend of Ron Brown's, Nolanda Hill, said that Ron Brown insisted on flying despite bad weather and that she begged him not to fly. This is in contrast to what the Secretary said about this matter. What can you tell us?

A: I think that the best that I can tell you at this point is that we hope to have the accident investigation completed soon. We will do a full press briefing and, at that point, we may be able to answer some of these questions but I have nothing to offer for you on that one.

Q: How soon is soon?

A: I believe that we may be able to do something for you this week and we'll be in touch on an official basis later on when it becomes clear that we will indeed be able to do that. Yes, Mark?

Q: On Bosnia. Can you address this changing mission or not? What's changed?

A: Well, Mark, I think if you recall General Joulwan's last visit here which was about three weeks ago, he talked about some of the, some of the accomplishments that IFOR has had in the first 120 days and how he expected to proceed as we move toward 270. He indicated at the time that what we have been able to do in the first 120 days was to essentially accomplish a lot of the military tasks. During that period of time, the military had focused a lot of its attention on the zone of separation, on moving heavy weapons, and moving military personnel into these containment areas. And he indicated that as we accomplish those tasks, it would open up our opportunities for IFOR to expand and to continue the mission, which would essentially promote the freedom of movement, which he felt was going to be so important to the whole election process, and toward creating the kind of stable environment that would be necessary in order to create a country that had some opportunity to last. I think what you heard over the weekend from Secretary Christopher, having talked to both General Joulwan and Admiral Smith, was that we have accomplished a lot of those tasks, that we have been able to increase the IFOR patrols, that IFOR is becoming a more visible presence throughout much of Bosnia where it was not so visible before. And the result of that is that the war criminals, who have from time to time been very visible, will not be able to be as visible in the future. It will also have the opportunity to increase potential for contact with indicted war criminals.


Now, from the very outset, General Joulwan has made it clear that, although the pursuit of war criminals is not an IFOR mission, detaining any indicted war criminals which IFOR troops come across is certainly well within the mission, and he anticipates that may occur in the future and that is what Secretary Christopher was talking about.

Now, when did these missions actually start increasing? I think you've seen that over the last few weeks. It's not something that I think you saw start on Sunday, but I think you saw on Sunday because of the meetings that General Joulwan had with Secretary Christopher and with others there in Geneva that there was certainly, a renewed emphasis, renewed attention to the fact that IFOR can play a very positive role in this important aspect of making sure that the elections are able to proceed in accordance with the schedule.

Q: So, IFOR will not be in any kind of commando pursuit a la Mogadishu?

A: I do not anticipate that sort of thing nor did Secretary Christopher. If you look at the transcript from Secretary Christopher's press conference, he indicated this was not a change in mission. Indeed, it is not a change in mission. What it is, is the progression, the continuation of the IFOR mission that has been established from the very outset. I think that you'll also -- it's important to recall that the factions are -- in accordance with the Dayton Accord -- the entities that are responsible for apprehending indicted war criminals. What IFOR has said all along is that certainly, as they encounter indicted war criminals, they will detain them and turn them over to proper authorities and the proper authorities are the International War Crimes Tribunal which is the organization that will determine guilt or innocence in the case of those indicted war criminals. Yes?

Q: Another question on the shoot down from one of your answers. Do you have any information on whether the Japanese ship opened full fire on the plane just as it would have on the drone or if only one gun went off? I was just wondering if you could --

A: I can't tell you that. I think it might be helpful because I know you all are interested in a lot of detail on this for me to provide to you a telephone number which you might want to check with. It's not that I don't want to answer these questions. It's simply that I think that there are people who are in a much better position and certainly a lot closer to the scene of the action to be able to answer the questions. And this is a headquarters of the U. S. Pacific Fleet located in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and their telephone number is area code 808-471- 3769. Please don't all call at once. Does anybody else have anything?

Press: Thank you.

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