DoD News Briefing

Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA

Thursday, September 7, 2000, 2:10 p.m. EDT

Q: Just one more, if I may, while I've got you. P.J. told reporters that Berger told Ivanov has shared -- the United States has shared the information that it gleaned from the Kursk sinking with the Russians. I wonder if you could share that with us in a bit of detail, including what the Chief of Naval Operations might have -- what conclusions we've come to on that.

Bacon: Well, from my review of the media last night and this morning, I think we shared it pretty widely with members of the press yesterday. But I'd be glad to run through what the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Vern Clark, wrote to his counterpart. He sent him a letter, about a page and a quarter long, in which he laid out the outlines of what we know. And I think the crucial points are this: that we picked up evidence of two explosions, a minor explosion and a major explosion, that came very close together; that the -- that there was no collision with an American or allied submarine or other vessel. Those are the two crucial facts.

The explosion was -- the second explosion, as I said, was major. We don't know exactly how large, but it ranged in size from the equivalent of one ton of TNT to the equivalent of five tons of TNT. It basically led to almost immediate flooding of the ship, the first two-thirds of the submarine, through the control room, not into the engineering spaces. That's basically what the CNO wrote in his letter, in summarizing our findings to the Russians.

Q: Is there -- is the United States aware of any data that would support the theory that there might have been a problem with some of the new liquid fuel-propelled torpedoes that Russia is reportedly getting ready to deploy, any evidence that those type of torpedoes were on the ship or that there might have been a problem with those?

Bacon: Well, there -- I think there's still a lot of question about what happened, and I gather from listening to a radio broadcast yesterday involving a fairly lengthy interview with a Russian writer, Pavel Felgenauer, that there's still many questions within Russia, within the Russian public, as to what happened and what was on board the ship. So if we had more information from the Russians, we could perhaps know more than we now know or speculate more accurately than we have. There is some speculation within the American naval community that there may have been a new experimental weapon on board the ship, but we don't have any confirmation of that. And right now we're dealing with fragmentary information, so it's difficult to know for sure what happened or what sort of weapon or explosive power might have been on board the ship -- explosive device.

Q: Could you just tell us when did this letter or report --

Bacon: I believe it was August 31st.

Q: Thank you.

Bacon: The end of last week.


Q: Two Russian questions. Putin and Clinton apparently signed a deal to cooperate on a theater missile defense exercise. Could you comment on that, what you know about it? And also, Russia, I gather, today announced or let the information out that they'd be cutting their military by about 400,000 people. Have you guys had a chance to chew on that and come up with --

Bacon: I hadn't seen the report of the Russian military, but it doesn't surprise me because they have been sustaining a large military and they haven't been able to pay regularly many of the people they have on active duty, so it's not surprising that they would make that.

Many countries in the world, including the United States, France, many -- Germany, are in the process of cutting back the size of their militaries and trying to make the remaining military better trained and more efficient. So it's not surprising that Russia is doing the same thing.

Q: TMD exercise?

Bacon: I don't know. I'll have to find out more about that.