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U.S. Department of Defense
Press Operations
News Transcript

Presenter: Lieutenant General Charles Q. Brown Jr., commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command; Captain Jeff Davis, Director, Defense Press Office May 27, 2016

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Lt. Gen. Brown via teleconference from Southwest Asia

CAPTAIN JEFF DAVIS: Good morning, General. Just want to confirm you can hear us.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL CHARLES Q. BROWN JR.: I have you loud and clear.

CAPT. DAVIS: We've got you loud and clear as well.

Good morning, everybody. We're pleased to be joined today by Lieutenant General Charles Q. Brown Jr., who is the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, giving us an update today on Operation Inherent Resolve.

General, we'll turn it over to you for any opening comments, and we'll come back here for questions.

GEN. BROWN: All right. Thanks a lot, Jeff.

Good morning, everyone. It's my pleasure to have the opportunity to speak to you today on behalf of the men and women of the 60 nations that make up the coalition -- over 60 nations that make up the coalition supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, and also Resolute Support.

It's my distinct honor to serve as the commander of United States Air Forces Central Command and as the combined forces air component commander for Central Command.

As CFACC, I'm charged to lead and be part of our 19-nation air coalition in support of OIR that is committed to defeating Daesh, while helping set the conditions for improved security and stability in the region. In -- (inaudible), I'm responsible for delivering air power to Afghanistan and across the 20-nation CENTCOM area of responsibility.

The coalition, whether in Resolute Support or Inherent Resolve, continues to do phenomenal work making air power look easy. As you've likely heard before, we're conducting the most precise air campaign in history. We're able to attrite Daesh in its capabilities anytime, anywhere, while taking very deliberate steps to minimize the impact to the civilian population.

There is no doubt coalition air power has and continues to dramatically dismantle Daesh, and Daesh's ability to fight and conduct operations in Iraq and Syria. Coalition airstrikes are effectively targeting critical Daesh capabilities as we continue to see positive results.

Now, when I came before you -- this group last, I highlighted the notable success in targeting Daesh's financial resources, particularly successful strikes on oil facilities and on monetary centers. These strikes have definitely had the desired effect, negatively affecting Daesh's ability to pay fighters and fund operations.

In addition to the continued strikes on Daesh's financial means, most recently the focus has been on logistics, and command and control targets in both Iraq and Syria. The upcoming video of two recent strikes in Raqqa, Syria and Rutbah, Iraq demonstrate the capabilities coalition air power brings to the table on a daily basis.

You've got -- Gordon, please and play the video.

Now, the strikes are an important operational element in advance of -- in advance of or in support of ground maneuver. This first part of the video shows the B-52 strikes in Raqqa destroying a Daesh weapons cache with high-precision guided munitions. This is one of many strikes conducted to degrade Daesh's logistics capability.

The second part of the video shows a strike by U.S. F-16s and French Mirage 2000s that were tasked dynamically to destroy Daesh's defensive fighting position. They employed three precision-guided munitions to successfully destroy the target. Now, this strike was conducted to disrupt Daesh's defenses as the Iraq forces moved to retake Rutbah.

It is strikes like these that in my perspective put more pressure on Daesh, decreases their ability to emplace and employ IEDs and/or mount an offensive attack.

As the air component, we are actively working to keep Daesh on the defense, enable ground forces to maneuver against as little resistance as possible. While there is consistent progress in and pause in momentum, now is not the time to pat ourselves on the back. There is still work to be done.

As the air coalition, we will do our part to persistently striking targets in the deep fight, and will continue to integrate coalition air power with ground force maneuver.

Regardless of the pace of operation on the ground, we will use coalition air power, its operational reach and flexibility, its precision and lethality as constant, present and responsiveness to pressure, to destroy and eventually defeat Daesh.

And with that, Jeff, I'm ready to take questions.

CAPT. DAVIS: We're going to do it Phil Donahue style today. So.

Q: Hi, general. It's Lolita Baldor with the Associated Press.

Can you give us, sort of, a more detailed sense of the fight in Fallujah, and what issues or problems the coalition is having in trying to do airstrikes there, considering the number of citizens in the city?

Are you seeing a lot of citizens leaving? Do you have a sense of how many are still there? And do you have any sense of the number of enemy fighters that are still in the city?

Thank you.

GEN. BROWN: Well, Lolita, from an air perspective, I don't have a really good sense on, really, the number of fighters that are in here. But I'll tell you kind of how we actually do the campaign in support of the operations there.

And so, from a broad perspective, we have increased the number of strikes in Fallujah in comparison to other areas in the campaign over the course of the past week.

And the way we do that is through the use of our joint operation center, that sits, in this case, particularly probably Baghdad that's working very -- (inaudible) -- side-by-side with the Iraqis to identify the particular targets we're going to strike dynamically in -- in coordination with the Iraqis as the Iraqi forces move.

From an operational standpoint, what I have seen is that -- you do see positive momentum and movement into Fallujah, as they execute.

As far as to the civilians, I can't really speak to, because I'm not watching that as closely. But I will tell you that one of the things we do as we work with the strikes, in coordination with their -- the Iraqis – or the deliberate strikes we execute - is to take, you know, great care to minimize any type of civilian casualties.

We really haven't seen, that I've seen, great movement of civilians out of the city at this one.

Q: One quick follow up, just on a separate topic.

There's been a lot of talk from the Russians about wanting to coordinate more with the U.S. over Syria.

Can you say whether or not you've encountered any difficulties with Russian aircraft in the airspace over Syria either getting in the way or other problems that would lead to further discussions about possibly considering some type of coordination?

GEN. BROWN: You know, really, if you look at the operations really since the Russians started flying back in September, and even with the MOU that's been in place, we've really seen very little or any issues with the Russians in connection in execution.

Primarily because of where -- we're -- you know, our objectives and their objectives -- although what they said was one thing is they were going to go after Daesh, which is, you know, probably not the case. It's mostly to support the regime. So we don't necessarily fly in the same locations.

There's one area that we probably come closer together it's in northwest Syria, you know, north of Aleppo and around Aleppo. We tend to fly north of Aleppo, and they tend to fly just south.

So by and large we have not had any issues. I mean, really look at the MOU, it was designed for safety at this point.

We don't do any coordination with the Russians, we don't necessarily have any real concerns, I do. I will tell you, we have a -- very professional phone calls that go back and forth between the coalition, the phone line we have here with the Russians to work through the MOU to ensure safety of flight for the coalition -- all the coalition and -- as well as our operations. And we do not have a safety of flight issue with the Russians.

Q: Hi, general. This is Marcus Weisgerber with Defense One. I wanted to ask you, there have been some reports about the OV-10 actually making an appearance again on the -- in the skies over the battle field in Iraq and Syria.

So, basically, I wanted to ask what -- what are you using the plane -- can you confirm the report that it's out there? What are you using the plane for? And I guess, what is the future of the OV-10 in this mission that you have?

GEN. BROWN: Well, that was actually not done under the air component. It was done under special ops in a -- kind of a test program. That happened earlier in the year. And you know, to be honest with you, it was a short-term, in that we haven't -- you know, I don't have any real details to be able to share with you as far as what the current status is, as we weren't necessarily working at real-time from our location here.

Q: A quick follow-up. There was a debate over -- (inaudible) -- years ago -- five, eight years ago about whether or not planes like the OV-10, or the Super Tucano or the AT-6 have a place in the skies over Iraq, Afghanistan, elsewhere where there's a permissive environment.

Where do you stand on that issue? Is this something that's even being considered anymore? And just kind of, what are your thoughts on whether or not planes like that could be helpful?

GEN. BROWN: Well, the example we use is the A-29s that are -- that are in Afghanistan right now that you have the air force flying. And so, it's a platform like that -- that has a pretty robust capability. Pretty easy to fly, pretty easy to maintain.

Which is a -- really, a great platform for a smaller air force that's coming up. So, in a permissive environment, that airplane works perfectly. In a non-permissive environment, then it's probably not as capable a platform.

Q: Hi, general. It's Courtney Kube with NBC News. I have two questions. First is, just something that you said towards the end of your opening statement that I found kind of curious.

You said that regardless of the pace of the operations on the ground, the air campaign would continue. What did you mean by that? Are you anticipating some sort of a slow-down of the pace of operations on the ground?

GEN. BROWN: No. I mean, there's times where, based on the pace of our partners, they were -- some days were going faster and some days are going slower. But from my perspective is the air component. We have the flexibility and the range to continue to put pressure on a kind of daily basis.

And so, my goal as the air component is to actually put pressure on Daesh wherever they are. Whether there's a ground force there or not. And, so, if things get slowed down or if there's changes based on weather, those kinds of things, then I still believe the air component can take advantage of our capabilities to continue to put pressure on Daesh, not give them any respite or sanctuary in any location.

So, I'm always pressing pretty hard to use our air power as much as possible. In person, I get frustrated sometimes when we're not using our capability to its full capability. We do, by and large. But I'm always looking to improve upon how we're doing business.

Q: And then, if I could also ask you though, about an announcement that the Kurds made earlier this week about the very beginning of a campaign to go -- move south towards Raqqa with tens of thousands of troops.

Can you give us any kind -- I understand not wanting to give the -- ISIS any -- a preview of what you're planning. But, can you give us any sort of an idea of what the air campaign is going to look like? Like, are you anticipating a dramatic increase in coalition activity north of Raqqah in the coming weeks and months to help sort of pave the way for those troops moving south?

GEN. BROWN: Well, I'll tell you, the model we -- we use and I think has been fairly effective, when you're talking Raqqah or any other location throughout the combined joint operating area, is we're able as the Air Force we're able to strike ahead of the ground maneuver. And so that's my goal. I know where the next fight is going to be, then what I want to be able to do is actually soften up that with strikes ahead of the ground maneuver.

And we've found that when we do that, the resistance that the ground forces face seems to be less, for a number of reasons. One of the reasons I think is because we start taking fighters off the battlefield. The second piece, and you know, (inaudible) -- my staff, if you're looking over your shoulder worried about an airstrike, you have a hard time building defensive positions or building IEDs or booby-traps -- so when the ground force gets there.

So my goal really is to -- is to in any case where we see that the ground force is going to maneuver, is to strike ahead of that and try to at least interrupt the logistics to where that next fight might be. And that's the beauty of being an airman. I think we have the capability to do some of those things, to strike in some areas that are away from the close fight so that those fighters can't get to that next fight and to strike them in advance is really my goal as opposed to striking them when they're in contact.

Q: Hi, general. This is Christina Wong from The Hill.

I want to ask you a general question. Can you give us a sense of the number of spy planes and other surveillance aircraft or assets over Iraq and Syria? And can you characterize how much that presence has grown over the last year?

GEN. BROWN: Well, I mean, let me just give you a general number -- the number of airplanes we have airborne on a daily basis. So on a daily basis, we've got anywhere from 150 to 160 aircraft that are airborne over Iraq and Syria, 24/7. And that mix changes, and it's a mix of strike capability. It's a mix of C-2 capability, ISR capability. And we use all those together in order to execute the campaign.

Tankers -- really, tankers is another big piece, which gives us the ability to stay airborne for the periods of time -- (inaudible). So it's really a mix of capabilities to execute the air campaign.

Q: Can you talk specifically about the ISR component of that?

GEN. BROWN: Well, without getting into the numbers, I will tell you that there's never enough ISR. If there's one piece that I know that the CJTF and the ground component ask for is more -- more ISR. And I would actually like to have more ISR and really be able to use it. Because what it helps me to do is develop targets so we can so strike at the same time, you know, as we develop those targets. The more ISR I have, I can minimize the risk to civilian casualties and continue the precision air campaign that we have.

Q: And then just one last question. How useful have the special operations forces on the ground in Iraq and Syria been for gathering more intelligence for targeting?

GEN. BROWN: Well, it's a combination of things that they are able to do. Part of it is there is some of that to gather some information for intel, but it's the advise and assist piece that they do with the indigenous forces, whether it's in Syria or Iraq. And the thing I will tell you that I find is the level of competence, I think, that the ground forces have since the time I've been here -- I got here last June -- has continued to increase.

I think it's based on the level of training they're getting at some of the training sites, whether it's with our conventional forces or special operations forces that has actually, you know, got us to a point where we're able to -- we as the air component can strike and you have a ground force that can go in and do what they need to do to move Daesh out of that particular area.

Q: Again, thank you, General, for doing this. This is Carla Babb with Voice of America.

I wanted to talk about your comments about increasing strikes in Fallujah in comparison to some of the other places last week. How has that affected your strikes shaping the Mosul operations? Because I noticed in some of the air strike releases, you're still striking Mosul. But are you having to strike less, because you're shifting to Fallujah, or are you striking the same amount?

GEN. BROWN: I -- you know, what? It -- from week to week, it fluctuates a little. And really based on the scheme of maneuver on the ground.

And so, from my perspective, what we try to do is we try to keep a constant, you know, bit of pressure really across the entire area. And so, we're striking in Mosul. Does it drop down a percentage point or two? Yeah, potentially. But it's not a major shift away, because that's the beauty of our air power, is we're able to range the entire battle space and strike in a number of different locations, you know, simultaneously on the same day type of thing, which allows us to be able to continue to put pressure on Daesh.

And so, when there's a ground maneuver, you tend to put a little bit more, whether it's a strike it, really there's ISR there to support that part. But we don't really strip everything away from one location to go with another. We have the capability to cover both.

Q: Hi, general. Gordon Lubold from the Wall Street Journal.

Two unrelated questions. One is on the conversations with the Russians, is that kind of on the staff operational level, is that hourly, daily, weekly? Can you characterize that?

And then, separate question altogether. Afghanistan. Can you kind of update us on this -- the air strike campaign against the Taliban when there's -- when it's called for in defensive operations, and also the Islamic State strikes that you have been striking since, I think, January?

GEN. BROWN: Sure. Yeah, first on the Russians.

So, every other day, we have a MOU working group. And so, I have a colonel here in my headquarters that talks to the -- to his counterpart that sits in Syria. And they'll talk about safety, and ensure that we're executing the MOU in the spirit of the -- in the spirit of the MOU.

We do phone checks every day to make sure the lines are good-- you know, because we have -- both of us have the opportunity to make out-of-cycle phone calls.

So, if something happens, we want to bring to the other's attention, so we're able to do that. And that process has actually worked out very well. And so, I've been very pleased with our ability to at least be able to talk about areas that we have -- if we have a concern that the Russians are doing something that's not in the spirit of the MOU.

And they have been responsive to go look at, investigate. And we do the same.

When it comes to -- to your question on Afghanistan. You know, what I've seen as I look at the -- really, increasing authorities that have been provided to General Nicholson and his staff here, is there has been a little uptick in the number of strikes in Afghanistan, with the fires we have there and some of the remotely piloted aircraft.

But we continue to watch that. And I'm really more in a support role to General Nicholson, and he's probably -- I would offer that he's probably better to answer that question.

We do provide air power from here, just from a scheduling standpoint, to support the operation and the tankers from the Gulf to support the operation in Afghanistan.

Q: Sir, if I could just clarify. The uptick in strikes, are you able to differentiate from where you sit between ISIS targets versus other targets? Or what were you referring to, there?

GEN. BROWN: Just the number of our strikes, and you know, it's the commanders there that are in Afghanistan that do the, you know, execute the strikes. And we just help provide the air power to do them.

So, they run the command and control, that part of it; we're just the provider of the air power and support.

Q: Hi, general. It's Brian Everstine with Air Force Magazine.

I wanted to follow up on the numbers question that Christina asked about.

When we had talked in Florida a few months ago, you talked about your EKG chart in your office. How you track your peaks and valleys of aircraft that's deployed. Are we sitting at a peak right now? Do you have ample aircraft deployed? And are you looking at any valleys coming soon?

And also, if we can go back to the B-52s. When they deployed to replace the B-1s at the time, were flying record operations, a record number of airstrikes, going to Winchester all the time on their missions. Are B-52s flying at that same pace?

GEN. BROWN: So, as we -- the EKG that we talked about earlier, it's a forecasting tool that I've been using, which I didn't actually -- I don't know if the staff had something sooner before I got here. But, it helps me to take a look at where we're going to have peaks and valleys in air power. And so, right now, we're probably just a little bit lower because the carrier's less.

But, another carrier's coming. So, it's not a long-term concern. And we have -- we do a thoughtful analysis to make sure we're able to cover the requirements of the -- with the air power we have. So, I'm not overly concerned with the capacity we have, whether it's a strike or as I saw from a -- give me your second question again. I just dropped it.

Q: Just about the B-52 pace. If they're keeping up with where the B-1s left off?

BROWN; The B-52s, they're doing well. And, I tell you, one of the -- maybe the criteria, something of the -- B-1s weren't going to Winchester all the time. I mean, they went to Winchester periodically, but they didn't go to Winchester with the B-1s a dramatic amount. But the B-52s are doing well, and they're able to pick up where the enemy, the other strike platforms, they will pick up and execute.

And you have to also realize, the B-52s haven't been out into this AOR for a number of years. So, there are some things that they're going through from a logistic standpoint and those kinds of things that to make sure they've got everything they need. And that piece is going well. And what I'm seeing is that they are actually, you know, picking up the pace.

You know, after they got here and got there. And they've been here for, I would say, six weeks now, thereabouts. And, what I'm seeing is their tempo continues to increase. And it provides capabilities that the B-1 doesn't necessarily have in some areas. So, it's not necessarily an apple for apples kind of comparison.

So, to me, it's another strike platform. And, I like having them here.

Q: General, hi. It's Paul Shinkman with U.S. News and World Report. I was a couple of minutes late so I'm sorry if I missed this. But, could you talk a little bit about the kind of momentum that you referenced going into Fallujah? Are forces preparing to actually go into the city right now? Or is it still shaping operations? What kinds of airstrikes are you conducting for what's happening on the ground?

GEN. BROWN: Well, it's a little bit of both. You know, we we're shaping ahead of, but we also see as they start moving in, we're doing some more dynamic strikes. And we've done a number of global strikes in Fallujah over the course of the past year. Really, about 38 or so. And, what we see is the ground force goes in, our strike tempo as far as a ratio between deliberate and dynamic becomes dynamic.

So, what I do see as I read the intel is that the Iraqi forces are, you know, moving into the -- they need to move towards and into the city. And really, as you look at it, as they flow into the city they're moving at a little different paces that -- they're maintaining on what sector of the city you're looking at. But, you know, our job there is to actually provide or watch air power to strike if they run into issues with Daesh.

But, at the same time, ensure we're minimizing any type of civilian causalities.

Q: And, going back to the question about Mosul, I understand that you've not changed generally, in the number of strikes that you're doing. But are the kinds of strikes that you're doing there changed? Has the ground of momentum there slowed at all as the Iraqi government is sort of moving CTS forces more towards Fallujah now?

GEN. BROWN: Not necessarily. I mean, you know, back earlier this particular year, in the past several months, you know, we were hitting a number of monetary centers there. You know, it's really the type of strikes. I would say some of these are logistics; some are the command and control centers. And we've also hit some mobile refinery -- oil-type facilities just north of Mosul.

So it's -- it's really a mix of different type of targets, but still keeping the same level of pressure is really the goal.

Q: Sir, Austin Wright from Politico.

First a follow-up. In response to Courtney's question earlier, you said that sometimes you get frustrated when you're not able to use air power to the full capability. What are some factors that can cause it not to be used to the capability?

GEN. BROWN: Well, I mean, some of this is we do -- we do a level of over-watch. And what I don't want to do is -- one of the things we try to do is we have targets we call deliver on call. And those are deliberate targets that we're going to strike eventually, but based on the way we're doing the over-watch missions, we don't have them on the air task order for that particular day.

So what we'll try to do is if that particular strike asset is finishing up its over-watch mission, and hasn't expended all their weapons, and it's a good match for one of these targets, then on the way home we'll have them go strike those targets. And that's how -- basically, what it allows me to do is actually increase the use of the air power. So that's one area.

The other is how we use some of the ISR. You know, as much as folks -- folks like full-motion video, it's an opportunity to go look at things and watch things. But I, you know, I joke with our staff here, you know, when I came to the Air Force, we didn't have full-motion video. And we were able to go strike and execute campaigns without, you know, being able to look at some of those things.

We've got to make sure we're able to do some things either with the ISR or the strike platforms. And it's not necessarily being creative. It's just using some of the doctrine that we've trained in other locations, and sometimes it's breaking a little bit of the paradigm and the mindset, and looking for opportunities.

And, you know, one of the areas I've done that as well is actually taking, you know, a little bit of ISR, using a strike asset -- (inaudible) -- doing some -- (inaudible) -- ISR, and going out and searching areas to find targets that we can strike. And they're not real -- you know, not up where the close fight is, where the land component is looking at. We're looking just a little bit deeper to strike some targets where we can actually take things off the battlefield, and they can't get to where the close fight is.

And so it's opportunities like that that I'm trying to take advantage of. It's me personally working with my staff, but also working the CJTF for opportunities like that.

Q: Back in February -- February, Secretary Carter said that we're running low on some of the precision munitions that we use against ISIL the most. Where are we on that now? Is that a concern for you?

GEN. BROWN: It's still a concern. We have to balance that to ensure that we don't -- you know, there are certain weapons -- we do a lot of precision-guided munitions. And you have to think about -- the way I look at this is, you know, we were drawn down in Afghanistan and across DOD, the weapons buy was probably not -- been forecast for this particular operation.

And oh, by the way, that many of our partners or, whether it's here for, in Iraq and Syria, or in Pakistan or in the Yemen operation. So there's a lot of people employing ordnance right now, precision-guided munitions that weren't forecast.

I know the Air Force has taken some steps to increase in the next pop, to buy more weapons. And you do that -- you know, those weapons are about two -- two years or so away, if not more. The other piece we have to look at is, I mean, we have stocks around the world that support not only Central Command, but other combatant commands. And we have to do some analysis of where we take risk. And what I mean by that is where do we pull some weapons from that we were saving for further contingencies. And do we use them now or do we save them for later?

And so it's really -- the constant analysis that we do here at our headquarters, working with CENTCOM, and then CENTCOM working with the Joint Staff and the other combatant commands, how we balance the weapons we have. So it's something we pay attention to and we want to be good stewards as well. I just don't want to go out there wasting weapons just because we can go strike something. I want to make sure that each weapon hits a meaningful target as much as possible.

Q: General, it's Luis Martinez at ABC News.

Yesterday and a couple of days ago, there were strikes near Palmyra. What kind of coordination is there with the Russians now that there are Russian troops in Palmyra? Is it any different than the regular contacts that you've had?

And also, with regards to the Syrian Democratic Forces offensive north of Raqqa. How do you -- what kinds of targets are you hitting with respect to that?

Is it different shaping than what we're seeing around Fallujah?

GEN. BROWN: For the strike in Palmyra, we don't do any coordination with the Russians, no. We don't talk to them about what we're going to strike or what we're going to do. I'm not going to ever provide them that level of detail. We're going to do what we need to do in order to go against Daesh. And that is the message I've -- when my O-6 talks with the Russians, we're going to fly and execute when we need to.

Now, we do pay attention to it though. Just like we don't want to have collateral damage, we don't want to have a miscalculation that causes a bigger problem for us by striking a place where there might be Russians. So, we do take great care in what we're going to strike and we're going to strike the targets that we need to strike against Daesh.

For the strikes there in northern Syria, the shaping operations there are forming up much different. And I don't see where -- the strikes we're doing there aren't much different from the strikes we've done in Fallujah. Or when we went to Hit or when we did, you know, around Sinjar. It's really -- we're taking out locations where they have weapons caches, C2 nodes, logistics, so they can't get to the command and control to really execute the operations. So, same type of targets general.

Q: Following up on Raqqa. So, it's less tactical dynamic strikes up there?

GEN. BROWN: Well, the dynamic strikes really kind of depend on this -- what the -- you want to ask and know about what the adversary's doing. And if there's a -- you know, fewer adversaries of Daesh out there and they don't present themselves, then, you know, they might not be prime for striking.

You know, if there's no -- nothing shooting there and nothing happening, than we may not need a strike. But, we're over watched just in case we do. But, what we do see, typically, is when we have a -- at least, (inaudible) -- over the course of the past year is, when there's ground over, Daesh presents itself. Which gives us opportunities to strike.

And, so I -- in fact you do see a little bit of an upswing in areas where we have moving -- we put air power overhead, they tend to actually have an opportunity to employ more in those locations and others.

Q: Hi, general. Oriana Pawlyk here with Air Force Times.

General Welsh briefed this morning, and he made a statement about how we need the weapons of tomorrow today to be successful. Especially in air campaigns such as this one. And I was wondering. You had said earlier that, you know, you would like to see maybe a little bit more IFR capability.

But, do the capabilities you have now, are they flexible enough? Or, are there other types of weapon capabilities that the CENTCOM AOR needs to progress in this air campaign against ISIS?

GEN. BROWN: You know, I think the weapons we have today are flexible enough. And, you know, we actually work with all the squadrons and wings and the coalition partners so that the -- when they load their aircraft, we kind of work with them to say, here's the type of weapons we think we're going to need on a day-to-day basis.

So, they don't go out the door with a, you know, with just one type of weapon. They usually carry a mix of weapons on their aircraft to give us a mix of flexibility. An example we'd also -- I'd also use is two separate fighters. The flight lead and the wing may not have the same weapons pulling out. And that gives us mass flexibility, because when we get airborne, typically we're going into a place where we think they're going to be a dynamic target.

So, we don't know exactly what the target's going to be. Much different from a deliberate target, where before those aircraft get airborne, they have a pretty good idea of what targets their going against. And, we're able to do a bit more analysis which may change the load because it's tied to a specific mission.

And so, we do have quite a bit of flexibility. So, I'm not overly concerned in that regard. You know, it's -- to your previous question. Just short of, we always have enough to be able to execute, is one of the things that -- not that I worry about. But it's something that I make sure I articulate so that those that help and support us know what the requirements are.

Q: And another quick question. I know the focus has been to find an alternative to GPS. Have you seen adversaries like ISIS, or perhaps the Taliban in Afghanistan using GPS jammers against our capabilities?

GEN. BROWN: I -- I've not seen that. And I really don't honestly worry about it, because I think we've done a pretty good job. And even with some of our GPS weapons, the GPS jamming doesn't really -- doesn't really impact it.

Q: Hi, general. This is Jamie Crawford from CNN. Thanks for doing this.

Following up on your comments on how there has been an uptick in the number of strikes in Afghanistan, I'm curious in the aftermath of the strike against the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz last year. Has that incident changed how the air campaign is approached?

Has it reduced the tempo or changed the rules of engagement of how you operate in Afghanistan, in the air?

GEN. BROWN: You know, I'd answer -- maybe defer a little bit more to General Nicholson on that. But I'll just talk to you in a general sense.

You know, the real takeaway for something like as it applies for us here in the operation we do in Iraq and Syria is to make sure, you know, we are going with the rules of engagement, and the communication and the coordination between all of the elements is very key to ensure we minimize any type of civilian casualties or collateral damage.

So, I'll tell you we go through great -- a very deliberate and -- a process to do that. And really, I would also tell you that what I find is that more times than not, and really, the goal with our crews there is, if they have any doubt, then they simply do not drop.

And I really can't speak to the Kunduz specifics on that. But we spend a lot of time talking about it, and ensure that the crews understand the intent and guidance from my level and the leadership above my level.

Q: Then on the air campaign in Iraq and Syria with the coalition, realizing that the United States carries out the vast number of air strikes in that campaign, I'm just curious if you can talk a little bit about the contributions from the other coalition countries in the air.

Do you feel like you're getting enough support from the other countries when it comes to air support and the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria?

GEN. BROWN: I do. I mean, I really do. And really, this is what I tell the coalition partners, in, you know, each nation brings some unique set of capabilities.

You know, in some cases, we may well fly F-16s. But you know, their F-16s are a little bit different than ours, and they may carry a different weapon, or you know, the French Mirage may carry a different weapon, it has a different capability.

Or they have an ISR platform and it has a little bit different capability, or they have a tanker versus having a -- (inaudible) -- that can maybe support who's (unaudible) a Navy aircraft, for example.

And so, each one of them comes in with the capability. And what I tell my staff and what my goal is, is to make sure we do everything we can to incorporate the capability that's offered by our coalition partners, and take max -- you know, take max advantage of the opportunities that they provide us.

And I'll give you a quick example. We have -- we -- the Air Force does not do tactical reconnaissance on fighter aircraft. We quit doing that a number of years ago.

We have a couple of partners that are part of the coalition that have that capability, and they have actually been -- it has been a real plus, because it's a way we can go get some intelligence fairly quickly on a fast-moving aircraft to go take some pictures and video, and then get that back to us fairly quickly.

So, I've been very pleased with the coalition contributions. And the last piece I'll also offer is just the -- the representatives we have here in the K-OC, the perspectives they provide and the -- sometimes, when they ask us, you know, some tough questions on our thought process, just because we're -- I mean, we give a large percentage, it doesn't mention -- necessarily mean that we've got the corner of the answer -- the market on all the answers.

And so it's helpful to get their different perspectives because of their different backgrounds. And I think it makes us sharper as a coalition and results in better execution overall.

Q: General, Eric Schmidt from the New York Times.

What's the current level of U.S. support to the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, both against the Houthis and against AQAP there?

GEN. BROWN: Our support to the Yemen operation is actually very small. It's a small amount of ISR and a small amount of tanker support -- really about 10 to 15 tanker sorties a week. And we do have a small contingent of airmen, a liaison team that's in the AOC in Riyadh to support and provide some advice. But by and large, the bulk of the operation is really done by the Saudi-led coalition and the coalition members who are part of that. And we're a very small percentage of the -- of that particular operation.

Q: (inaudible) -- contribution winding down over the summer?

GEN. BROWN: You broke up there. Can you repeat the first part of your question?

Q: Do you see -- do you envision that contribution winding down over the course of the summer?

GEN. BROWN: Well it's tough to tell. I mean, right now there's a cessation of hostilities. As I've talked to some of the partners who are engaged in that particular operation, they may not be deploying as much, but they haven't really decreased their flying).

Our tempo hasn't really decreased in support of the operations there. And I think, you know, based on the negotiations that are ongoing in Kuwait, time will tell whether or not things will slow down there -- (inaudible).

Q: General, Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News.

How aggressive is your pursuit of the ISIS leader Baghdadi?

GEN. BROWN: Well, you know, I can't speak to that. That's, you know, that's not -- that's another part of the CJTF that works that part. I know we've helped provide air power in support of that, but I really can't get into specifics on that.

Q: So if given the order to take him out, would you do that?

GEN. BROWN: If I'm given an order, unless it's immoral or illegal, I'm going to follow it. I mean, it's part of my duty as a member of the United States Air Force.

Q: And just a different topic. On budget cuts, have budget cuts impacted the air war at all? And can you talk about cannibalization of your aircraft out in the Middle East? And I recently visited Ellsworth Air Force Base and learned that half the B-1s can't fly. I'm just wondering how cuts to your force are impacting the fight against ISIS.

Thank you.

GEN. BROWN: You know, as the operational execution -- I mean, having -- actually, I was out here as the deputy AFCENT commander during sequestration. And the way the services do, they front-load and support the operations that are -- (inaudible) -- forward, and then they'll -- they take an impact on readiness back at home station.

I will also tell you that, you know, what I've seen with the Air Force and others is, and the other services as well, is readiness is one that they've been focused on. And so, you know, I don't -- we don't get impacted by it by and large.

I understand it because it does have an impact if I ask for more -- for more assets. Which is why I want to be a good steward about what I ask for, is realizing that it's going to have an impact on a unit and the readiness of a unit back home, in order to have, you know, the next rotation to be ready.

On the B-1s real quick, I know the B-1s are going through an upgrade, a major upgrade which will increase their capabilities and -- (inaudible) -- give them a glass cockpit. So, I don't know, you know, the specifics on Ellsworth. I do know that that's one reason why the B-1s aren't here right now is so they can get that upgrade; the reason why we have the B-52s here.

Q: Hi, general. This is Carla Babb with VOA again.

I just wanted to go back to when you were talking about getting up to full capability and having a level over watch, targets on call. I don't want to over simplify, but I'm trying to understand what you were talking about.

Are you saying that you're doing too much over watch and not enough striking? And are there targets? They're high value targets that you're just watching? That you feel that you have the ability to strike that you're not striking?

GEN. BROWN: No. So let me clarify. So the over watch is -- there's ground maneuver? We're going to have airplanes there to support the troops that are on the ground. It's no different than what we've done in Afghanistan. Same kind of mindset here. Because you don't know when the -- you know, the enemy has the bell. So you don't know when the enemy's going to do something.

And we can't -- I can't have an aircraft sitting down in an UAE on a strip of ours, because it's a three hour drive to get from UAE up into Iraq or Syria. So, that's the reason why they have the airplanes overhead.

On the delivery piece, what we're trying to do is, if there is a project -- we had over watch and nothing happened during that timeframe. They still had weapons available, but I know there's a target that we can go strike, then I want match up that target. And that's why we call it a kind of deliver on call.

So, we have targets that can be serviced or struck. And now we have an aircraft that has weapons on its way home and have the gas to go it, we'll go in and strike it. Versus them coming home and not just coming back another day to strike it, if the opportunity presents itself. So, it's really just taking advantage of opportunities is the way in which we strike.

Q: General, Jamie McIntyre from the Washington Examiner.

I missed the very top of your remarks. I apologize if you've addressed this issue. But, as no doubt, you're well aware that the United States is not providing the same kind of close air support to Afghan forces battling the Taliban in Afghanistan as it is for Iraqi forces in Syria battling ISIL.

If that were to -- if the authorities were to change to permit that kind of closer coordination with Afghan forces, would that require an increase in assets in the Central Command area of responsibility? Or could -- is that a task that you could handle with what you've got on hand?

GEN. BROWN: Well, it's a task that we can handle with the forces that we have on hand. And, there's opportunities sometimes and in-extremis support, you know, the Afghan forces are -- that's General Nicholson's decision on how he might do that. You know, if there's a dramatic change, then we'd have to go back and reassess whether or not we were -- our capability and capacity there in Afghanistan, and does it work.

Q: Hey, general, Marcus Weisgerber again. Has -- have U.S. aircraft have any -- have they had any run-ins with Iranian air craft at all and throughout this -- since at least, since you've been there?

GEN. BROWN: No, not since I've been here. And I don't really -- I'm sure there's a deputy from 2013- to '14. But I don't -- we didn't have any of them either, in -- (inaudible).

CAPT. DAVIS: All right, general. Thank you very much.

With that, we appreciate your time and thank you for coming out to see us. Any final words for us before we sign off?


First of all, thanks again for the opportunity to talk with you today because it's a real -- it's my real pleasure to share with you what we are doing, how we're doing it and you know, I'll tell you that I'm extremely proud to have the opportunity to lead and to be a part of this coalition. We've got a lot of great folks making things happen, really all across the AOR.

And it's not just the airmen, but it's the complete joint and coalition team. And, you know, it's really impressive, the work that we're doing. And like I said in my opening remarks, we have momentum. And my goal is to keep the foot on the gas and keep pressing hard.

And that's why I made the comments about, you know, I want to take full advantage of our capabilities. If there's more we can be doing, I want to be able to do it. And I appreciate your support back home for the folks who are out here deployed.

Thanks a lot.

CAPT. DAVIS: All right. Thank you, sir.

Thank you, everybody.

Q: Thank you.



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