The other announcement that I would like to make is because of cloud cover at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico last night, the MIRACL test did not take place.
We had also attempted a test of MIRACL on Saturday night, but because of some technical difficulties, that test also did not take place.
The data is currently being evaluated to determine if there are any other opportunities to conduct the experiment in the satellite's remaining lifetime, but there is some question that there will be any further opportunities.
Q: Iraq. Can you give us, now that it's several days later, the official reason for why the NIMITZ is rushing toward the Persian Gulf? Is it Iraq? Is it Iran? Is it what?
A: I think the Secretary addressed this in Paris the other day. What he said, and I would like to quote him, "I'd like to clarify several press reports on the issue. I recently accelerated the deployment of our aircraft carrier USS NIMITZ to the Arabian Gulf by five days. I did this to send a signal to Iraq that the coalition is serious about enforcing the no-fly zone over Southern Iraq. As I explained to Minister Richard, the deployment order cited only Iraq. It did not refer to Iran."
Q: Has Iraq been violating the no-fly zone with impunity lately?
A: What I will say on that is that there have been violations of the no-fly zone by Iraqi aircraft, but that the coalition continues to enforce the no-fly zone and we will do so in the future.
Q: That sounds like a contradictory statement. You say they're continuing to violate it and the United States continues to enforce it. No planes are getting shot down. How can you square that?
A: I think you need to go back and take a look at what the purpose of the no-fly zone is. The no-fly zone is designed to keep the Iraqi aircraft in check. I think the signal of the aircraft carrier going to the region and the constancy of our flights over there make it very clear that the Iraqis are very restricted in their ability to carry out flight operations. If they do carry out flight operations they risk getting shot down. We've done that in the past. We stand ready to do it in the future. But I'm not in any position to predict if and when that will occur.
Q: How many violations of the no-fly zone have there been in the last week? And can you describe any of them and how they were... When they were...
A: I will describe them as primarily just skirting the no-fly zone. I'm not going to get into a play-by-play on where and when they occurred. I don't think that is productive.
Q: I understand the latest one that I read about happened either last night or this morning involving two Iraqi planes in the southern no-fly zone. Can you give us any details on that incident as an example of what we're talking about?
A: No, I'm not going to get into any details on the incident.
Q: Can you describe for us, apparently some of these aircraft have landed between the 33 and 32nd parallels in the no-fly zone.
A: I'm just not going to get into any details about what the Iraqis are doing. I'm just going to make it very clear that the coalition continues to enforce the no-fly zone and the Iraqis need to understand that.
Q: What are the terms of the no-fly zone? That no aircraft can fly period? Whether...
A: That Iraqi aircraft may not fly in the no-fly zone. That's it.
Q: You said the Iraqis have continued to violate... There have been violations. Can you give us any sense of quantity? How many...
A: No, I'm not going to give you a sense of quantity. There have been several.
Q: The NIMITZ at this point is still at least several days away from the Gulf.
A: Enroute, right.
Q: Enroute. We also sort of forget sometimes, there are significant numbers of Air Force aircraft in Saudi Arabia, and I think there's an AEF in Bahrain who are currently policing the no-fly zone. Has the U.S. asked these host countries whether or not we have their permission to use these aircraft to shoot down aircraft that are violating the no-fly zone? If you remember, last September that was a problem in OPERATION DESERT STRIKE. Saudi Arabia, and I'm not sure if Kuwait as well, but there were some problems there, that we couldn't get permission to actually launch offensive operations.
So A, have we asked them for permission? And...
A: But Bryan, I think you're making a distinction here that may not exist. We're talking about enforcement of the no-fly zone. We're talking about enforcing a zone that all of the countries in the area are well aware of. I am unaware of any objections that have been raised regarding the enforcement of the no-fly zone which remains in place and which we continue to enforce.
Q: It's sort of an open green light, you mean? The permission is there for these Air Force aircraft to shoot down planes that violate the no-fly zone. Is that correct?
A: The mission is there for us to fly flights that are going to enforce the no-fly zone.
Q: The B-1 extension, the two B-1s that are in Bahrain, was that also signed off on by Secretary Cohen, or was that an Air Force decision just to extend the training mission?
A: I believe it was a conscious decision to extend the B-1 for...
A: Well, let me take that question and see if I can find an answer on that one.
Q: Why are you reluctant to detail the Iraqi air movements?
A: I don't think I want to help the Iraqis know what we know about their movements. I think that it is counter-productive for us to delineate exactly when they fly, where they go, what we know about them. And some day when we're writing the history of this thing we may want to get into it, but right now I don't want to do that.
Q: You haven't been reluctant in the past.
A: I have been reluctant in the past. (Laughter)
Q: Can you tell us anything about the rules of engagement that American pilots are operating under in this area now? Have they changed? Is there some time limit that if an Iraqi plane comes across the line that it has a certain number of minutes to go back before it's engaged, or...
A: First of all, we don't get into specifics on rules of engagement, but they're robust, and they certainly allow the pilots to enforce that no-fly zone.
Q: How many Air Force aircraft are in the area?
A: Let me see... I'm not sure I brought that with me, but let me just see if I have it in the cards. I'm sorry, I don't have that. But we can get that for you.
Q: There are more than...
A: We can get you a ballpark figure.
Q: There are more than 100 Air Force combat planes in the area. Why do you need the aircraft carrier? Why do you need that additional...
A: I think it was determined to be a very prudent move given the situation in the area at the time.
The aircraft carrier, by the way, was scheduled to deploy to this area. It moves it up five days.
Q: Why the rush?
A: I think it was because of the overall situation. It was just determined that it was going to be a prudent thing to do.
Q: Are these Iraqi planes committing these violations because U.S. planes aren't in position to do anything about it? Or are they committing these violations because U.S. planes are in position but have been told, or make the decision themselves not to do anything about it?
A: I'm not sure that I can answer your question. You're asking whether it's because we're not there or because we choose not to shoot them down?
A: I'm not sure that I can answer your question.
Q: Can you get us an answer?
A: We'll see what we can do on that one. I'm not sure we want to answer that question just yet.
Q: Part of this whole issue also involves Iranian aircraft, as we all know. Is the U.S. confident that if Iran violates the no-fly zone, we would have permission to shoot them down, too?
A: Part of the overall equation was the fact that the Iranians had made a run over there. I think Secretary Cohen made it very clear that that was not part of his thinking.
Q: Can you clarify whether the no-fly zone in any way implies that restrictions in airspace applies to Iran?
A: As Ken Bacon mentioned last Tuesday, it's a matter of individuals who fly into the no-fly zone and do so at some risk to themselves.
Q: But the risk is of being accidently shot down?
A: That's the risk.
Q: Do you have any reason to suspect that what Saddam is doing is testing international reaction to violations of the no-fly zone now that he's got the justification of responding to Iranian cross-border attacks?
A: I would hesitate to ever do any thinking for Saddam Hussein. I think anybody who's made an attempt to do that has gotten into trouble, so I leave you to your own speculation on that one.
Q: Has the no-fly zone been enforced round the clock, or is this a daylight operation?
A: Primarily daylight.
Q: So we're not enforcing it during the evening, is that what you're saying?
A: I'd say primarily daylight which is the primary time that the Iraqis also fly.
Q: So the violations have been in daylight as well?
A: For the most part, yes.
Q: What's your assessment, the Pentagon's assessment right now of the Iraqis' integrated air defense system? Is it up and running from where it was before DESERT STRIKE or is it still in a depleted status?
A: Let me get somebody who can really talk about that. I'm not sure I'm prepared to answer that one at this point, either.
Q: Are there any changes in the way the no-fly zone has been enforced, either in number of sorties or perhaps in the way U.S. planes currently there are enforcing the no-fly zone? Or is it just business as usual?
A: The numbers have gone up. The numbers of sorties have gone up.
Q: In the last two days or the last five months or when?
A: The last week.
Q: There's some concern by people in this building that the situation could deteriorate further during the Iranian naval exercises that are planned.
A: We're always conscious of activities that are going on, but we don't anticipate anything in that regard.
Q: Are the French still flying in the no-fly zone, patrolling the no-fly zone in the...
A: To a certain area, but not as far as up as we recognize.
Q: Have there been any instances if Iraqi radars illuminating American aircraft?
Q: Have you seen any other activity on the ground -- troops out of garrison, troops moving south, equipment moving south, any of those many myriad of indicators -- that indicate that there's more activity in Iraq in the last few days?...................
Q: On another subject, the laser test. Is there something more you can tell us about how confident you are that they can do this again?
A: I don't know that the confidence level is very high. That's why they're taking a look at the data to see if there is another possibility. Right now there is nothing else scheduled.
Q: If you do determine that they cannot do it, what happens with to the MIRACL laser? Is there a plan B? Is there another satellite up there?
A: As far as I know at this point there are no further tests involving this satellite, or any other satellite which are scheduled. But the MIRACL laser is a laser that has been tested in the past and will continue to be tested in the future in a variety of ways. I don't have their projected experiments, but this satellite, the one which we have been talking about, the Misty 3, over the last few weeks, there is some question as to whether it will function much longer.
Q: Can you explain in layman's terms why the window of opportunity of doing this test appears to be closing? I know you said the satellite is losing power from the batteries, but doesn't it have solar collectors and... Why is it the window is shutting so fast?
A: It has to do with not only the power, but also the fact that the orbit is such that it cannot be used in this kind of an experiment except for very small windows when it is in the correct position near White Sands. Or over White Sands.
Q: Are you saying the test has been scrapped or what?
A: I'm saying that we, first of all, have not been able to conduct the experiment. We're looking at the data to determine if there are any other opportunities, but at this point we don't know the answer to that.
Q: So maybe?
A: That's a maybe.
Q: What was the technical difficulty that prevented it over the weekend?
A: It has to do with a software problem during the laser startup, and the laser could not be recycled in the very small window which existed to conduct the experiment.
Q: The last year or so I think, Misty 3, a similar situation where it was in orbit, where it's power was getting drained and they were able to revive it when an inclination with the earth changed. Are they waiting for this to happen again in like six months' time?
A: I don't think it's that long. I think they anticipate a answer in the near term as opposed to six or eight months out.
Q: They're not looking at recharging the batteries, they want to see if they have enough power to do this now as it is?
A: That's my understanding.