THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary Knob Noster, Missouri ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release June 11, 1999
PRESS BRIEFING BY BRIGADIER GENERAL LEROY BARNIDGE JR.
Whiteman Air Force Base Knob Noster, Missouri
1:20 P.M. CDT
COLONEL CROWLEY: Good afternoon. During the past couple of months we've tried to introduce you to a wide range of military systems and, in particular, Air Force systems -- thinking back to our trip to Barksdale Air Force Base, a trip in Europe to see the crews at Spangdahlem and Ramstein. So keeping in this Air Force and air power theme, we thought here at Whiteman we'd give you the opportunity to hear from the Whiteman team and those people who are very, very proud of the performance of the B-2 bomber.
You've got the bio of the bomber in your press package but, obviously, from the time that we had initial operating capability in 1996, this is probably the fastest that you've had a weapon system that has seen sustained combat in the history of the Air Force.
So we've got some folks here that can talk you through how the B-2 performed and any other questions that you have. One rule -- I'll introduce you to Brigadier General Leroy Barnidge Jr., the Commander of the 509th Bomb Wing here momentarily, but we do have three of his pilots who did participate in the air operation, the NATO air operation. They go by their call signs and they'll identify themselves if you have questions for them during the course of this. One is Turbo, one is Sven and one is Sunny.
Since the air campaign is still suspended and not terminated, we're kind of protecting the identities of our air crews in the event that they have to see action again. But to start things off, introduce you to Brigadier General Leroy Barnidge Jr., Commander 509th Bomb Wing.
GENERAL BARNIDGE: Well, whoever started to applaud, that's great. (Laughter.) I am Leroy Barnidge and it is a pleasure to be here with you this afternoon. I think you all are eating better than we have thus far. But the day that we've had here and, indeed, the last several months that we've had here have been not only history setting at Whiteman Air Force Base but certainly I think a major impacting force on our military operations as we view aerial warfare today.
The Wing is doing good. The Wing is doing great. The first B-2 arrived here -- as we were talking earlier, the first B-2 arrived here on December 17, 1993, and in just those few years, we have gone from a new program to a war fighting program. And the B-2 has been awesome. The crews have performed fantastically, and I just couldn't tell you how proud I am of them. Just everywhere you go, you'll find that people will talk your ear off simply because they want to tell you about who they are, what they're about and what their job is. And you can see the pride swelling up in them the more they talk.
The airplane is the most incredible piece of American technology. A lot of people were skeptical early on. I mean, we've seen every accusation, from it'll melt in the rain, to some kind of difficulties in bombing or whatever, and every single accusation has been refuted with live fire, so to speak. Our crews and our jets today have participated in Operation Allied Force and performed flawlessly. We've flown nearly 50 missions over the Kosovo area and into Serbia. And as you know, this airplane is designed to go into the most lethal areas against the hardest to get at targets. And we do that, and we do that very well.
The bombs, these JDAMs, or Joint Direct Attack Munitions, are an incredible munition from two respects. Number one is its accuracy. The accuracy, when combined with the B-2's targeting system, is far better than we ever anticipated. In other words, you don't want to be standing on the X on the ground when a B-2's coming by. And the second thing is, is of course, from a cost perspective -- because these things cost us about $14,000 or maybe a few bucks over that, and yet what we have is those incredible accuracies with a cheap, by other standards, munition, and you get phenomenal results.
And then of course you combine that with the extraordinary talents of not only our aviators, but the folks who maintain and otherwise support the airplane, and you get the results that you got.
Q General, is it correct -- there are two things. Is it correct that there are ten B-2s here now and that six participated in the operation?
GENERAL BARNIDGE: Sure.
Q And, secondly, the President said that the B-2s flew just one percent of the 30,000 sorties, but accounted for 11 percent of the bombs dropped. Did you want to correct those numbers?
GENERAL BARNIDGE: No, I don't want to correct them -- they're correct. But let me explain them, perhaps. In terms of the number of jets that we have, we just took delivery of our 10th airplane. In fact, one of the other pilots and I brought that jet back from Grissom Air Force Base in Indiana just two weeks ago, I believe it was. And that brought us up to a large number of 10 airframes on the base here.
As you know, the buy is for 21. And so we're sitting here operating in real world combat ops, producing some pretty extraordinary results with less than half the fleet, and realizing that the fleet is only 21. Now, the comment about flying with only six -- absolutely. Most of the time that allied force was going on, we only had nine airplanes. If I take the nine airplanes and I subtract out one that is in final contractor modification -- it just wasn't, the modifications weren't completed on it -- if I take another one out and put against our school house -- because realize we're still a brand-spanking new program, we're still training pilots to fly this thing.
And so you either have to shut down a school house or you've got to give it at least one airplane to keep some minimal production rate going on. So that took out two of them. And the third one is what we call phase maintenance. It's just the periodic recurring maintenance, and that accounted for one airplane's worth of time. That left six jets that were available at any given time for the flying pool.
Now, also combine that with the realization that it's about a 30 hour sortie round trip. These guys have spent over a day in an airplane each time they went on a war fighting mission. If we were flying two jets at a time and we were launching two jets and then let's say even the next night two more, oftentimes they'd pass each other in the sky, almost like a shift change operation, because the other guys hadn't even landed before the next wave took off.
And, yet, we did this, like I said, with only a six shift flying pool. That speaks incredibly well for not only the robustness and durability of the airframe, this thing just keeps running and also -- oh, by the way, for when we did have to do maintenance, the crews and the folks that support this thing, it was just a phenomenal thing. We turned an awful lot of the airplanes in as much time as it took to refuel and rearm. And that's phenomenal in our business.
Q -- vindicate you, it vindicates the B-2 program? Do you feel vindicated about it now?
GENERAL BARNIDGE: I don't need to use the word "vindicated," but I certainly feel like that the B-2 has demonstrated its capability for the entire world to see. You combine that awesome technology with the capabilities that these crew members have, because remember now, we don't put new people into the B-2 program, at least not to date. So we don't worry about their pilot skills. We bring mature fliers, combat crew members into this program, we train them on the systems that this airplane uses, and then we ask for them to help us develop tactics and procedures to employ the B-2, and the results is what we've got here.
I'm sorry, I missed the last part of your question. Let me finish that.
Q Sure -- because if the President is saying one percent of 30,000 is 300 missions --
GENERAL BARNIDGE: Yes. The B-2 has flown approximately 50 missions and I think that it's probably a half of a percent, or even a little less -- he said less than one percent. And certainly, we have dropped -- if you calculate the number of bombs and multiply it by 2000 pounds or a ton apiece, we've dropped over 1.4 million pounds of bombs. But realize that most of our bombing is, is each bomb is individually targeted. So the deal is, and in fact in some cases, it's one bomb, one target, next subject. The bombs are that good, the guys are that good, the jet is that good.
Okay. Other questions. Yes, sir, go ahead.
Q Could you talk a little bit about the effect of the war just on the base and the life and rhythm here in the last 79 --
GENERAL BARNIDGE: Well, it made our hourly wage go terrible. I'll tell you what, life got real busy around here. The Wing, it was purely adrenaline early on. But let me say that it was beyond just the Wing. Because one of the biggest bear hugs I got was from a lovely 85-year-old lady who grabbed me around the neck because her B-2 and her wing were involved in the Kosovo operation, and for a moment there, I didn't think she was going to let go. It was -- the pride that she had was no less than the pride that any person, any of these guys, any of the people that work on it out here day to day felt as we got this airplane, this still-new acquisition program, into this fight. And, of course, with the results that we have achieved, that just made that enthusiasm go higher.
Q Do we have any means, or do you have any means for evaluating the stealthiness or the successfulness of the stealthiness of the aircraft on this particular mission?
GENERAL BARNIDGE: On this particular mission? We maintain a very good knowledge of the stealthiness -- I'll use your words -- the stealthiness of our jets. Now, it's irrespective of the mission; we know the condition the airplane is in. And we know, therefore, are able to deduce how well the airplane would do against any given set of threats that we may go up against.
And, yes, I know very well what kind of shape these airplanes are in.
Q And can you tell us -- we understand that most of the missions, or many of the missions are flown at very high altitudes. Do the planes still face anti-aircraft threats at those altitudes --
GENERAL BARNIDGE: Oh, certainly.
Q -- or how does the stealthiness serve the mission in this particular case?
GENERAL BARNIDGE: We'll have to send you back to SAM school and anti-aircraft school 101, because many of the threats go far higher than most airplanes fly -- most air-breathing airplanes flying. And so, yes, stealth is very much a concern and an issue at whatever altitude that people fly it, and without pressure suits on, is what I'm talking about.
Now, the term "very high," yes, we fly at high altitude, and we vary our altitudes and we count explicitly on the stealthiness of the airplane; after all, that is what we bring to the fight, is an incredible mass, a long-range capability and, oh, by the way, under a banner of stealthiness.
Q The 30-hour mission that the two-man crew -- can someone give us an idea of -- one someone is sleeping while someone is flying --
GENERAL BARNIDGE: Let's talk to the guys who have done this. Let's talk to Turbo.
TURBO: It's not nearly as grueling or as bad as you might think, just looking at it on the outside. There are various points in the mission where we have to have both crew members in the seat; that's for takeoff and landing, air refueling, and then, obviously, when we're in country and doing our bombing.
At other times, it's perfectly fine, and then what we do is, is, one guy gets out of the seat and takes a nap and the other guy flies and we trade off. And those points are numerous throughout the mission.
On my first sortie, I probably got four to five hours of sleep; on my second sortie, I got close to eight. So it's not a difficult thing for us to schedule rest and keep ourselves fresh when we need to be fresh.
SUNNY: There's an area in the back behind the two ejection seats where we could lay ourselves a sleeping bag out with an air mattress; and, in fact, we even went down to the local Wal-Mart store and got some aluminum trifold lawn chairs and laid those out and laid on top of that. So we found ourselves getting quite comfortable back there.
SVEN: You're laying down with your head basically right next to the toilet -- (laughter) -- and your feet are at the other wall of the airplane. But when you're tired, you're able to sleep and at least able to rest. And that hasn't been a problem. Like these guys said, our experience has been by the time guys are going through a second time, they're getting much more sleep and at least rest out of the seats. And we eat a lot of munchies and drink a lot of water. Most guys drank about a case of water on the way over and back. Guys aren't drinking a lot of coffee, but some soda and just munching.
Most of the guys also did what we call "bomber dogs," where we've got a little hot cup, we can heat up things and we heated up chili and some hot dogs and, in some cases, sauerkraut and the whole mess and had yourself a good gut bomb there. And things like that keep the flight interesting, I suppose. (Laughter.) And there's time for that in the off times in the activities between air refuelings and between bombing, obviously.
Q How much time did you have between missions?
TURBO: Between missions? It would vary, depending on how busy we were. It would vary, depending on how busy the tasking was as to how fast we would turn around, and that just is directly related to numbers.
Q Any surprises in your mission?
Q Anything that you can talk about.
TURBO: No. I had actually had some combat experience in another aircraft before I got here, so it wasn't quite the great unknown it may have been for some of the other guys. I flew with two different guys, and it was the first experience like that for both of them. And the comment that they both made after we were out of country and on our way back home, I said, so what did you think. And they said, that's kind of boring. And for us, it really was. We did see some threats and see some fire, but it wasn't anything that concerned us because we trust the airplane so much, basically.
GENERAL BARNIDGE: Let me interject here, one of the questions -- it's kind of related to what you just asked, that gets asked a lot, is lessons learned. Lessons learned, actually for the first time in my experience, anyhow, were all positive. For example, the jet did far better in terms of reliability and maintainability than we ever anticipated. The crews were able to operate the targeting system in concert with the munition far better than we anticipated to achieve accuracies far better than we anticipated.
And, oh, by the way, as we went along, we improved our tactics and procedures. The fuses that we put into the bombs, we varied that a little bit because we saw some of the weapons effects. And, therefore, the thing just kept getting better rather -- in terms of any kind of negative surprises. It just kept getting better, and the results are there.
Q General, will this experience, do you think, change any policy toward the B-2? For example, will there be impetus now to order more or to change --
GENERAL BARNIDGE: (Laughter.) Well, certainly, there's been a lot of dialogue written about by your buddies, I'm sure, about the thought of buying more B-2s. I think we're going to leave that to the congressionals and let them decide what's right for the country under the advice of our military.
Okay, sir, in the back.
Q You said you went after some of the hardest to get at targets. To the extent you can, what makes the targets that you guys went after harder to get than targets other guys went after?
GENERAL BARNIDGE: The best way to characterize it is -- as I use the words, most lethal environments and hardest to get at targets -- and things that make environments lethal or just the number of threats that are around it -- SAM sites, triple A sites, that sort of thing. And hard to get at can be anywhere from reinforced structures above ground to buried structures, those kinds of things, or perhaps very small targets that you need very good accuracies for, but the weather is working against you. And so you have to be able to go through the weather.
Q I'm not sure this relates to the kinds of targets you hit, but to the guys who are actually flying -- does it ever get personal or emotional, or are you just sort of hitting buildings that you know are buildings that are probably empty or -- how does that work in your head as you're doing it?
SVEN: When we're in the country, we may have several different target complexes, like the General mentioned. And you're pretty busy looking at your aircraft systems. And the other major thing is looking at imagery for the targets, because we're able to look at pictures that we've got of what the target should be, and we take our pictures of it and we compare them. So we're able to put eyes on the target, and there's a lot of activity around that aspect, putting -- actually dropping the weapons.
So you're cycling through some checklists and looking at each target complex, and once one's done, you need to reconfigure some things in the aircraft and go on to the next one. So those things -- that's one thing that I really sensed, was at first, there was that little bit of apprehension for the first target complex. And after that it really got down to business and you needed to look at the next one, and after that it was the next thing going on. So you really didn't have time to focus on other things and focused on what the next one was going to be as you prosecuted your current target.
Q So how long did you spend over hostile airspace then, on a mission?
GENERAL BARNIDGE: Less than 30 hours, that's for sure. (Laughter.) It was obviously a minimum part of the mission, just because you've got a long drive getting there and a long drive back. But we're not going to talk about the exact amount of time in hostile airspace.
Q Was the repair, the service record so much better that you could consider forward deploying the B-2 in the future as opposed to having them fly from Whiteman?
GENERAL BARNIDGE: Well, certainly, forward deployment is a very viable option. It was not necessary this time. Given the -- and you've got to remember what makes a requirement for deploying? Well, first of all, it's the sortie rate that they want to cross the target. Second thing is, is how many air frames do you have to do it with? Third thing is, is what ability do you have to support the air frames in a forward-deployed location versus a home-base kind of situation.
You put all those things together, especially the sortie rate that they were asking us to do, and we could do it from home base. And, oh, by the way, we have everything that we've got here, already established, set up a mature support system, so why go to anything lesser. Even though we could have operated there, there was no reason to go there.
Another situation, if you upped the sortie rate, if you had lesser airplanes or anything that would impact that mix, then maybe next time the right answer is forward-deploy, and we will.
Q Can you go over the names again? I'm sorry. It's Turbo and --
GENERAL BARNIDGE: Oh, certainly.
SUNNY: And I'm Sunny.
GENERAL BARNIDGE: Okay? What else? Very good. Thanks very much. Okay, you all have a great day.
COLONEL CROWLEY: -- for the pool report, but the President did spend about 20 minutes with members of the wing, and their separate bomb squadrons -- the 393rd bomb squadron, the 325th bomb squadron -- about 50 of them, including pilots, maintainers and a handful of spouses.
He briefly addressed the group, after seeing the airplane and just prior to making his remarks in the hangar. He complimented them on their outstanding performance. He mentioned, in remarks that lasted about five minutes, that the experts said that this couldn't be done, but we were able to achieve our objectives through the use of air power. And he complimented the members of Congress, again, that were in the audience that had been long-time supporters of the Air Force and the B-2, and understood the potential of the airplane.
And then he ended by saying, this is the third time since the end of the Cold War -- the previous times being Rwanda and Bosnia -- where we've had to step in to try to stop ethnic hatred and slaughter. He said, obviously, particularly in the case of Rwanda, we acted far more quickly in this particular case, and that to the members of the wing, they'll all be able to better understand how important their mission was and their work was once they are able to see the refugees return home in the coming days and weeks.
Any other questions before we wrap up?
Q Do you happen to have any information on the President's schedule Monday or Tuesday, do you?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I do not. I'll see. If we have any scheduling for next week, we'll pass that along.
Q Do you know if we're going to get a transcript of his address to the refugees, or is that something that's --
COLONEL CROWLEY: That's a good question. I don't know the answer to that. I'll take that one, as well.
Q What is that?
COLONEL CROWLEY: The address to the refugees. There's a videotape in the offing, that we're having the President do a videotape to the refugees in the next day or so.
Q Are you in a position to address any of the issues on the deployment of KFOR?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Having been out --
Q Are any units of KFOR going to be deployed -- I know it's late, now, in Europe, but would there be a deploy still today?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Well, the activation order has been given, so the responsibility for deployment is in the hands of the KFOR commander, Lieutenant General Mike Jackson. It'll be up to him to evaluate when the time is right. So it's the commander's call on the ground as to when, you know, which forces and in what sequence they move forward at what time.
Very good. Thanks very much.
END 2:45 P.M. CDT