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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Minister of State for the Armed Forces and the Chief of the Air Staff:
Press Conference at the Ministry of Defence, London - 4 April 2003

 

Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Adam Ingram:
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Since I spoke to you last Friday, the coalition has seen further steady progress both in terms of military advance and in terms of the other crucial battle that I spoke of last week, winning the confidence of the Iraqi people through increased normalisation and security. Sadly, further casualties have also been sustained through enemy action, through accidents and through 'blue on blue' incidents. All these Servicemen died doing their duty, in difficult and dangerous conditions, in the service of their country. And I would like to add my condolences to those already expressed by my colleagues to their families friends and their colleagues.

The focus of this press conference will be the air campaign. Beside me is Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire, the Chief of the Air Staff, who will shortly brief you on the operations that have been conducted to date. But first I would like to say a few words to put that in context.

Yesterday the Defence Secretary gave a comprehensive update to parliament on our progress in the military campaign. I do not propose to go over all the details that he set out. I would however like to
focus in upon the key point that he made, namely the multiple dimensions of the task that faces our Armed Forces. I see this conflict as comprising two halves of equal importance and our military campaign objectives reflect this fully.

The first are the military operations themselves that are designed to remove Saddam’s regime from power. This offensive action is the enabler for the second half, where the focus in the short term will be upon normalisation, and ultimately on political security and economic stability. Our commitment to both of these is absolute. Let me be clear. Saddam and his barbaric regime will be removed from power and we will help the Iraqi people who have suffered under his regime for too long to look to the future with confidence.

What has been particularly important about the way this campaign has developed is the relationship between these twin objectives. It is clearly not a campaign where we just concentrate on the fighting until that is over, and then turn our minds to what to do next. In fact what is happening is that as the war fighting progresses to a conclusion, we are implementing, at times simultaneously, a security framework for peace.

The relationship between these two phases is so close that the way that our forces are operating in a war fighting phase is heavily influenced by the requirements of the follow-on renewal phase. Our approach to the assault on Basrah is highly illustrative of this. There is no question that the fire power available to our military commanders outside the city of Basrah could be used to a more immediate but destructive effect, for the welfare of the people of Basrah is key to determining our strategy. Our restraint should not be interpreted as weakness, rather it is a sign of care borne out of the commitment we have made not to harm the Iraqi people. The city of Basrah is contained. Our commanders on the ground will use their own professionalism and sound military judgment to decide when and how to enter the city. The overriding imperative is a desire to bring humanitarian aid to the city to augment their water supplies and to reconnect their electricity. The people of Basrah have much to look forward to. As soon as it is safe, what is being delivered to the surrounding towns and villages of Umm Qasr, Safwan and Az Zubayr will be directed towards improving the lives of
Basrah’s citizens.

We have already achieved a lot in the area outside Basrah. Royal Navy mine counter-measure vessels have cleared a channel half a mile wide leading to Umm Qasr, which the UN has now declared a permissive environment. The port is now ready to receive the delivery of further humanitarian aid. In a growing number of areas the increasing normality is reflected in patrols by British forces, exchanging helmets for berets. Schools and markets are reopening, hospitals that previously only catered for the favoured few have opened their doors to ordinary Iraqi people.

There is no humanitarian crisis in southern Iraq. However the situation is far from ideal, but that is a legacy of Saddam’s decades of misrule, not a result of two short weeks of coalition activity. The stores from the Sir Galahad are now available to be distributed when needed. There is indeed a real problem with water, but for many people we have already alleviated this through the pipeline we have built to Umm Qasr and through a reactivation of the water treatment plant there. Water availability in Basrah is currently thought to be running at about 60%, thanks to the efforts of the Red Cross. Once Basrah is secure, the restoration of water supplies will become a priority.

In general we have made a good start to our dual commitments, to the removal of Saddam Hussein and the threat that he poses to the region and the wider world, and to the rebuilding of the nation that he suppressed for too many years. US forces are now engaging Iraqi Republican Guard Divisions on the edge of Baghdad and have seized key crossing points over the Euphrates and the Tigris, as well as effective control of the airports.

Of course the air campaign has played a key part of the coalition’s operations from the outset. In a moment I will hand over to Sir Peter who will describe that part of the air campaign in more detail. However I would like to say just a few words on the wider aspects that underpin this part of the campaign. You will be aware that this campaign is very different to the last Gulf War. In 1991 our liberation of Kuwait was preceded by weeks of intensive bombing. In this campaign the ground war had started before even the air campaign was fully under way. The other major difference is a greater focus on precision we can apply. There has been a huge amount of media interest in the bombing campaign that we have conducted against Baghdad. By and large the reporting has been
sensible and measured. Although we have packed a huge punch, our overriding concern has been to minimise both civilian casualties and unnecessary casualties on our own side. Our precision technology has contributed greatly to our ability to achieve this.

Clearly in the pursuit of our valid military objectives there have been, and will no doubt continue to be, some civilian casualties. All
civilian casualties are deeply regretted by the coalition. We would ask you not to let the Iraqis be your source for such information. It is a regime built on lies and callous disregard for their own people.

Let me close on this point. Our targeting policy has been guided by a number of considerations. There is a clear moral imperative to minimise civilian casualties. There is of course a legal obligation to do the same. Finally, there is a practical argument derived from our post-conflict ambitions for Iraq. We want to see Iraq restored to its rightful place within the region and the international community. Once again our actions are a visible proof of our long term commitment to Iraq’s future.

I will now hand over to Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire to brief you further on the air campaign.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire:
Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. I want to follow on from the Minister’s introduction by saying a few words about the air campaign, and in particular about the Royal Air Force’s contribution to it. But the first point that I would like to make is more about if you like doctrine and concept, inasmuch of the transformation that the Royal Air Force has gone through over the last 10 years. In that time we have really changed our structure and our training mechanism quite substantially away from the posture that we adopted during the Cold War which was very much one of a citadel operation from our main operating bases in this country and in Germany, and now we are a fully expeditionary force, in accordance with the conclusions of the Defence Review of 1998, and indeed the new chapter work which was done in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 incidents.

In the Gulf we now have a Royal Air Force air component deployed at large scale with a full range of capabilities, and the deployment itself was actually quite a remarkable success. You will recall that really the decision was taken only in the first week of February to swing the deployment of that air component from the north, from Turkey, down to the south into the Middle East specifically. I went out to visit our deployments at the end of February and we had a full operating capability by the end of the first week of March. Well all very well and good, but how have we used that capability? Well the daily air task order calls for about 1200 fixed wing sorties each day. That does not include the rotary wing support, which is also extensive, and which I will come back to in due course. But again it is not sorties that are important, it is the effect that they create.

For the record, the Royal Air Force is contributing about 10% to the overall 1,200 sorties a day, and that matches if you like the scale of our deployment. But our contribution in terms of effect is certainly 10% and probably greater, not least because the balance of our combat air power deployed is largely offensive rather than defensive. The Minister has already said that unlike the Gulf War in 1991 where the offensive air campaign started some six weeks before the ground campaign, on this occasion they have been pretty much coincident.

Now there are several strands to any air campaign, and certainly to this one. There is on the one hand the strategic side of it where we are seeking to gain air superiority, we are looking to take down the command and control communication centres of the regime and we are looking for mobile Scud type weapons which carry a WMD capability. There is also then the support for the land component in terms of close air support and battlefield air interdiction, there is the whole gamut of reconnaissance from strategic right down to tactical, and there is the combat support sorties, whether they are airborne early warning and control or whether they are air to air refuelling.

Now as a fully integrated component of the offensive air campaign, the Royal Air Force has brought into operational service in the last two weeks two new weapons systems. The first specifically designed to take out strategic targets like air defence operations centres, like Command, Control and Communication nodes, is the conventionally armed stand-off missile known as Storm Shadow, which you see here loaded on this Tornado. The programme was sufficiently advanced prior to the conflict for us to declare an initial operating capability with this weapon. The testing that we had done had given us very high levels of confidence on its reliability, its accuracy and certainly on its penetration, and indeed the deployment of this system, and the employment of it, on operations has been extremely successful. And what I would now like to do is to talk you through a sequence which will give you a little bit more to see.

Here is one of the weapons being wheeled into a shelter in the Middle East where it will be loaded on to this aircraft, loaded and inspected by the air crew who will fly the aircraft just to make sure that all the loading has been done correctly. This is a trials drop done in the United States before the war, and here is the weapon completing its final manoeuvring before it actually takes out the target against which it has been designed. And that was actually an inert weapon, not an explosive weapon.

Clearly for the full battle damage assessment we will have to wait until we get inside many of the targets that it has been tasked against. But I am going to show you a photograph now of one of the sector air defence headquarters in Iraq. On the left hand side you can see the two desired mean points of impact targeted against the building, take my word that is exactly where we were aiming for, and if you compare with the right hand side, that is exactly where the weapons went, and that is absolutely typical of the 30 or so sorties that we have launched Storm Shadow on in the last two weeks.

I would like to say something about the targeting process and the care that is taken in the selection and the planning of all of those sort of targets that you have seen. Firstly targets are selected only if they contribute directly to the government’s military objectives, and the minimum force is always used to achieve those objectives. All the plans are scrutinised most carefully to ensure the minimum of casualties, civilian and damage to civilian property. The criteria that we use are in accordance with the international law of armed conflict. We do look at the distinction of targets between civil and military and we only attack military targets. We look at the necessity to take that target out. If there are going to be civilian casualties, or likely to be, then the proportionality between the value of taking the target out and the risk to civilian population. And finally we have special rules as they pertain to protected objects and sites, sites like religious, cultural and historical, and you will have seen yesterday I think on television from theatre how again American planning had very much avoided a mosque which was in close proximity to one of the targets they were taking on.

Let me show you here again another target in Baghdad. This is a communications centre situated right alongside Saddam Tower, there were a number of desired mean points of impact for targeting around this area, three I have got marked in specific. The slide on the right shows you that the target has been attacked, a bit difficult perhaps for those right at the back to see, but again you will see that all of the desired mean points of impact have been attacked with cruise missile type weapons and have left the tower completely undamaged and standing, and again I could have shown you a picture similar to the one that was available on Sky yesterday from the American briefing, of a Ministry in Baghdad which had been taken out right alongside a mosque, but leaving the mosque completely undamaged.

The second new weapon that we have brought in, very much this time for the tactical battle, is Maverick, a precision air launched anti-armour weapon, procured in the aftermath of the Kosovo air campaign when we found taking out single targets close to buildings and so forth difficult to achieve with the weapons we then had in service. This as you see has been integrated on to the Harrier GR7, which already has a very good day and night capability, the weapon that we have with the head that we have again gives us a day-night capability, specifically in the close air support and battlefield air interdiction, and again I am going to take you through a short sequence which shows the weapon loaded on an aeroplane on one of the outboard pylons, and you will then see the aircraft shortly taxiing out at night on a close air support or battlefield air interdiction sortie. This is the head-up display, don’t worry about the terminology, but you will see the missile launch, and the aircraft can now depart, it has been locked on and here you will see the weapon actually going and impacting an armoured vehicle or tank. Again the final sequence of that is a trial shot, the actual launch
sequence that you saw was from an operational sortie in the Gulf. But having locked the target on, then the aircraft can complete an evasive manoeuvre to depart the scene.

Now the combination of Storm Shadow, Maverick and indeed our enhanced Paveway weapons, those are weapons that we have added a GPS control facility along with the laser guidance system on it, again in the aftermath of the Kosovo air campaign, the combination of those three smart precision systems have given the Royal Air Force a step increase in our offensive capability and undoubtedly gives us a range of weapons which fully matches frankly the American range of Smart munitions. And it is interesting to note how the ratio of smart to dumb has changed over the last 10 years. In 1991 10% of the weapons were smart, 90% were dumb and unguided, although the 10% of the guided ones did 80% of the damage. In Kosovo the ratio was probably 60% smart, 40% dumb. In this campaign it is 90% smart precision and 10% dumb.

I think at this stage it is just worth mentioning a number of the other specialist and complementary capabilities that the Royal Air Force brings to this campaign. You will be well aware of our tanker capability which operates on a probe and drove mechanism, unlike the boom system operated by most of the American Air Force. This particular capability, extremely useful for refuelling United States Navy aircraft, here you see an E-6, a prowler aircraft, immensely important in the suppression of enemy air defences through its jamming capability, but it also refuels the Australian F-18s in theatre.

With the ALARM, the air launched anti-radiation missile, a different missile to the American HARM, but does the same sort of job but in a different way, and again you can use these systems very much in a complementary way to produce a synergistic effect in that part of the suppression of enemy air defences.

In terms of tactical recce, I think we bring, in fact I know that we bring a range of capabilities which is actually unique to the Royal Air
Force. Here you see a brand new again reconnaissance pod that we have recently fitted and cleared for service on Tornado, a pod called Raptor, the reconnaissance airborne pod for Tornado, which gives us a medium to high altitude stand-off capability with a data link straight down to the ground for rapid processing, but the ability also for the navigator in the back seat of the aircraft to do some of the looking at the film and working out what the pod has seen, he can be doing that in the air. But the Tornado are not only equipped with this, but also with the low level IR reconnaissance system which again gives us a low level day-night capability which is certainly unique in the theatre.

And finally the Nimrod, the MR2 Nimrod that we have, now equipped for both overland as well as maritime tactical surveillance both day and night and being used so.

The other two capabilities which I haven’t mentioned, which I really ought to, about which we perhaps don’t see as much as the high profile offensive, is the role of the support helicopter force that we have deployed, a mixture of Chinook and Puma helicopters, very much in close proximity and working with our land component, whether it is the Parachute Regiments from the Army, or the Royal Marines from the Navy. So they are doing an excellent job, a lot of sorties, and some very interesting and skilful and demanding flying.

And the other capability which we deploy is the Royal Air Force Regiment which provides for our forward operating bases the whole panoply if you like of force protection, from active defence in terms of guarding and patrolling, to passive defence in terms of NBC detection, protection, and deployed in full measure with the Royal Air Force Regiment fully deployed to cover all the range of deployed operating bases that we have in the Gulf.

Now while you would expect me to be extremely proud of the Royal Air Force performance now, as we are on D+16 – and I am proud – I just want to reiterate that our contribution is but 10% of this overall coalition air campaign. It is a campaign which has been planned and assembled with great care and thought. The targeting has been precise in both its planning and execution. We haven’t taken out every bridge, we have only taken out the ones we need to, we are being very specific in terms of avoiding things like religious sites. The tempo of the campaign has been responsive to strategic and operational factors. We haven’t always flown the number of sorties that we thought we might need to, we have adjusted that to take account of circumstances.

And at the end of the day the campaign has achieved air superiority and will undoubtedly go on to achieve air supremacy. It has degraded the regime command and control in the face of huge resilience. It is and will continue to shape the battle space in support of the land component. And it has in my mind achieved its goals with the minimum civilian casualties and damage to civilian property.




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