DoD News Briefing

Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, DASD
Thursday, August 17, 2000 - 1:30 EDT

Q: Craig, has Secretary Cohen or anyone else in the Pentagon, for that matter, had any additional communication with the Russian government on the possibility of U.S. assistance to the sub?

Quigley: No. As I mentioned in Tuesday's brief, Secretary Cohen had sent a letter that day to his counterpart in the Russian Ministry of Defense, Minister Sergeyev. We do know that the letter was delivered, but so far we have received no response. Now in addition to that, there's been no communication that we're aware of -- and I think we would be -- at any other level within the Defense Department. So at this point, we're not aware of any requests by the Russians to assist in any way in the rescue of the crewmembers. We've made offers at several levels; they've been appreciative each and every time, but have felt up to this point, at least, that they had enough assets on hand of their own to take care of that.

Q: So would it be safe to say that it's too late for the U.S. to get involved, seeing that they're --

Quigley: I would say it's never too late. If the Russians feel that there is something that the United States or any other nation, for that matter, could provide to assist in the rescue of the crew members, we're very confident that they will say so, and we'll do our very best to provide that, whatever that might be. Yes, sir?

Q: Was any tapping heard from the submarine, or not?

Quigley: We, the United States, heard no form of communication. Our source of information on that has come from Russian officials and Russian press reporting that have discussed and alluded to the tapping over the past couple of days. So that's -- that is our source of information on that topic.

Q: Were -- U.S. ships were in the area, is that right?

Quigley: We had a TAGOS ship, it's called -- it's an ocean surveillance, oceanographic research vessel and surveillance vessel -- a couple of hundred miles away from the exercise, and that's the only surface vessel that was involved in that.

Q: What about the explosion? This ship -- I mean, there is some thought now that the explosion was big enough to have flooded the boat and killed most of the people on it.

Quigley: I have seen much reporting over the past several days, as well as comments from Russian officials on that, but I have nothing to share with you on that topic. I'm sorry.

Q: -- (inaudible) -- his first question? Your response to his first question? I may have misunderstood you. You said that the source of your information about there being no form of communication heard was from the Russians, or independent?

Quigley: No. From the Russians, both from statements by the Russians as well as from Russian press reporting.

Q: They've been saying there was tapping.

Quigley: Right, and that's what --

Q: You said there was none.

Quigley: No, no, no. We're saying -- No, if I didn't make myself clear, let me try that again. We have no direct knowledge as to whether or not there's been tapping or any other form of communication with the crew members of the submarine. We are reading and listening to the statements made by Russian officials, as well as the press reporting, that the Russians have been in contact, but that is 100 percent of the source of our information in that regard. Dale?

Q: Is the TAGOS ship or any other U.S. or NATO assets in a position where you would expect it to hear tapping if there had been any? That is, are you close enough that the devices that are available would have picked up that tapping?

Quigley: Well, the NATO vessels, I don't know. I don't know if there were any other nations' vessels at all in the vicinity. But the TAGOS vessel that was a couple of hundred miles away has very sophisticated equipment on board. But I can't get into the specifics of its capabilities and limitations. I'm sorry. Dan?

Q: Will there be any U.S. observers or anybody like that accompanying the British?

Quigley: No, none that I'm aware of at this point. I think the British are sending not only the operators of the LR5 but as well as some technical advisory people as well as some logistics and support and mechanical support sorts of folks along with it. But I think it's a small number. It's in the 20s, I believe, I think I've heard said. But we have no intention of sending anyone along at this point. John?

Q: Do you have any kind of readout on the meeting between the Russians and NATO officials today in Brussels? Do you know whether they laid out any of the technical specs on this wreck at all?

Quigley: I was trying up until just minutes before I walked in here to get some sort of feedback from the meeting. I'm not even absolutely sure that it's done, John. But was I was not able to get any feedback from that. So I know it started at roughly 6:30 in the morning, our time, today, but I have no feedback from that. I'm sorry.

Q: And can you give any comment on how forward leaning American forces are in terms of being willing and ready to provide assistance if such a request were to come?

Quigley: The willingness has been expressed through a variety of means to the Russian government, to the Russian Navy, the Russian Ministry of Defense. I think there's clarity there that not only the United States, but other nations, have offered whatever the Russians feel would be helpful. The readiness of the assets that might be used, I guess the most obvious one that comes to mind is a deep-submergence rescue vessel. And our assets in that regard are at North Island Naval Air Station out in California, in the San Diego metro area. The -- we've not moved forces to reposition them anywhere, but the crews and the support cast for the DSRVs out there have been very much aware of the situation in the Barents for the last several days. They've done an inventory of their equipment. They're paying attention to the news reports, they're listening to their chain of command. They're ready, by design, on short notice by the very nature of their mission. So I think they're as ready as they can be, short of actually being asked for help and being directed to fly away.

Q: How long would it take for them to get there then, though?

Quigley: I can't give you a direct answer on that, but it would be the flight time to gather the crews together, get the assets on aircraft, position them somewhere in the vicinity of the asset site. Not clear where that would be. Should there be a request from the Russians for that asset, those would be the sorts of questions we would need to have good answers to.

Q: Well, are you talking days, weeks, hours? What would be a time frame --

Quigley: Oh, in a matter of a couple of days, I would think. Yes?

Q: Neil Baumgardner, Defense Daily. Has there been any thought or discussion to prepositioning efforts, those sort of assets forward, like the British were doing just before the request from the Russians came in?

Quigley: We have no knowledge of which assets might be helpful to the Russians. I'm -- I was attracted to a parallel to the Hippocratic Oath this morning where, first, "do no harm." And about the worst thing that you could have happen is six countries, 10 countries -- pick a number -- all rushing to the scene with assets they feel might be helpful, and in the aggregate you would be counterproductive and actually be obstructive in any sort of a rescue attempt for those sailors. So being able to predict which U.S. assets, if any, might actually be helpful in the recovery of the crewmembers, is not something that we can do. So I discussed Tuesday, from here, there's other things, there's many other things that might be helpful, but we're just simply not going to guess as to what might be helpful. The offers have clearly been made, the Russians are very much aware of those. And we're confident that if they feel that we have something that can contribute to the rescue efforts of the crew, they will let us know.

Q: Have the Russians shed any light to U.S. officials of what they think may have been the cause of the explosion in the sub?

Quigley: No, sir, not that I'm aware of.

Q: Can you in any way tell us of any differences in capability between the LR5 and the U.S. equivalent technology that's in San Diego? For example, I gather the British are saying that the LR5 drives at about four knots an hour under water. And the question is, is the current stronger than that or less so? Does the American equipment have greater power than that, or is it the same or less?

Quigley: I am not familiar with the specific capabilities of the LR5. And I think I should let the British talk about the capabilities of their system. I'm aware of some differences in the two. The U.S. DSRV that's out at North Island is a -- is, I think, in the aggregate, probably a more complex system, allowing there to be things like a pressure differential. I think it can carry more people. But there are design limitations to any piece of equipment. And on the U.S. DSRV the angular maximum is about 45 degrees. So if you have a submarine that is angled at 45 degrees or greater, that's beyond the design capability of our system. Now the British have said that the big advantage of their LR5 is they are not hampered by that 45-degree restriction, and they can accommodate a greater angle. So in this particular case, as we understand it, that would be an overwhelming advantage and would be the tie-breaker. So that system could, in this particular circumstance, be more capable. But I'm not clear as to the specifics of its capabilities or limitations.

Q: Could I also ask you: Does this accident, in your view -- I realize it's early -- say anything about the state of readiness of the Russian Navy? What is the state of readiness of the --

Quigley: Oh, I would draw no such macro-conclusions from this or any other accident. They can occur for a variety of reasons to a variety of navies around the world. So I think our focus and our concern at this point is to try to rescue those crew members on board that submarine. I'm sure that's Russia's focus as well -- and indeed every seafaring nation that has offered to provide assistance. That's the concern.

Q: Could I ask you as a separate question, then, if people are finished with the subject of the submarine, about the state of readiness of the Russian Navy?

Quigley: I'm not prepared to go in such a comprehensive topic on that today. It's not something that can be discussed in a few minutes. It's a comprehensive overview of an entire nation's naval force, and it's a subject of several hours of discussion and debate to give any country fair treatment. Yes, sir?

Q: What can you tell us about the Norwegian assets that are going, the divers? Are they in fact commercial divers and are they saturation-type divers?

Quigley: Nothing, I'm afraid. I would have to refer you to the Norwegians. Jim?

Q: Yeah. Can you say how the U.S. Navy -- or how often the U.S. Navy exercises or U.S. submarines exercise escapes in these types of situations?

Quigley: I don't have that answer with me, but we can sure check on that for you. Let me take that question and see if we get some sort of frequency that we exercise the DSRVs.

Q: I mean, do they ever exercise the DSRVs --

Quigley: Oh, yes.

Q: -- in the sense of actually coupling with a submerged submarine and --

Quigley: That is my understanding, but let me do a check on that. Let me take that question. We'll get for you -- I know I don't have it here with me.

Q: In that regard, the exercise that is scheduled for September -- we've been told about, in the Mediterranean, apparently involves some kind of submarine rescue aspects.

Quigley: Mm-hmm. I think the exercise is called "Sorbet Royal."

Q: Is that exercise going to include one of these vehicles?

Quigley: I don't know. It's a NATO exercise. I would -- I don't know if the folks within NATO headquarters or SACLANT or SACEUR will continue on with that or make some modifications. I don't know. Chris?

Q: There's been some discussion of bringing inflatable float devices down to lift the ship, to correct its angle or to bring it to the surface. Is this fantasy land? Does this type of technology exist? Is it something that the United States has, or are you aware of any other country that has flotation devices large enough to bring a submarine to the surface or to straighten it out --

Quigley: Well, this is a very large submarine, and there's some -- a lot of questions here that we don't have good answers to. We don't have clear visibility as to what sort of floatation devices the Russian Navy or perhaps Russian industry may have. So in that regard, I can't -- I don't know as to what may already exist within Russia's assets. But you would need to have an understanding of the conditions on the bottom. You'd need to have an understanding of some sense, at least, of how much flooding there might be on the submarine, in order to place the right amount of flotation devices under it, because its weight and -- its displacement would not vary, but its weight would. And so then that would describe how big a flotation system you need to put in place. And those are all great questions, but I don't know what assets may exist in Russia or other nations. I don't know of any in the United States that would be capable of lifting that.

Q: All right, so the United States does not have this type of technology? If it were a U.S. submarine down, we wouldn't have the ability to put an inflatable bag on it and bring it to the surface?

Quigley: No, we have no such system like that. Now, there are other things that are of lesser size that certainly will work. I believe something like that was used just a week or so ago to at least assist in the recovery of the Hunley off the coast of South Carolina. But you're talking dramatically different size and weight. And I don't know of anything in the United States inventory that can accommodate something that large. Yes, sir?

Q: What federal agencies are tasked with monitoring the minute-by-minute developments? I mean, would that be Naval Intelligence, DIA? Who is looking at this --

Quigley: I think you'd find a variety of components of our government that are very interested and watching it very closely, starting with the president; the president, the National Security Council, certainly the Department of Defense, the Department of the Navy.

Q: I'm specifically talking about -- I mean, I'm sure the president is interested, but he's not really an expert in these matters. I'm talking about the people who have the ability to analyze such data, such data as they are receiving, whether from the Russians or from independent sources. I'd just sort of like to know who -- if there's a task force or some group that, either together or loosely confederated, is assigned to this sub --

Quigley: I'm not aware of a data flow coming from Russia. I mean, this is a sovereign issue for the Russians to determine what, if any, information they wish to share or provide to other nations. So, I mean, I think the wolf closest to the sled, if you will, are any assets that could be brought to bear to help rescue the crew members. So in that regard, you've probably got the folks here in this building and within the Navy Department that are paying the closest attention because they would be the ones that would have to respond most quickly, should a request for assistance come from the Russians.

Q: What about the U.S. analysis of the explosion, whether it was one or two, or how big it must have been, extrapolating from a distance, whatever?

Quigley: Again, I have nothing for you on that. I'm sorry. -END-