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April 11, 2003
Notes from the Pentagon

Supply and demand
U.S. Central Command would like a second Air Force Global Hawk spy plane sent to the Persian Gulf to find the Iraqi enemy. But it has competition.

The commander of 37,000 American troops in South Korea would also like a Global Hawk unmanned aircraft sent to his theater. There, it could keep an eye on hundreds of thousands of North Korean forces across the demilitarized zone.

Therein lies the problem. There are only two available models. The program is not yet in production and Northrop Grumman only produced a few.

What's unique is that the Global Hawk acts like a maneuverable spy satellite. It can loiter above 60,000 feet for more than 30 hours, sending pictures to commanders on the ground.

The $30 million aircraft-ground station package has performed flawlessly during Iraqi Freedom, allied officers say. It gave commanders something they had never enjoyed before in a major air-land battle: a continuous wide-angle view of the battlefield that was instantly beamed to the Air Force's Combined Air Operations Center in Saudi Arabia. Enemy positions were then sent to field commanders and pilots.

"From the very beginning, we've had Predators up in the vicinity of Baghdad, and from the beginning, we've had Global Hawk over the top of Baghdad, and today, we've got Global Hawk over the top of Baghdad in an orbit that runs as far north as Kirkuk and Arbil, and as far south as Baghdad," said Lt. Gen. Michael Mosely, the top Air Force officer in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Global Hawk delivers some advantages not found in the smaller Predator drone, which has been buzzing over Baghdad, armed with a Hellfire missile, looking for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and other Ba'ath Party VIPs.

The Global Hawk flies out of range for most models of surface-to-air missiles. It provides a wide view of nearly 200 miles, as opposed to the Predator's "soda straw look," one officer said. The high-resolution Global Hawk can also be used for close-ups to study individual targets.

North Korean exercise
North Korea conducted a major civil defense exercise late last month that could be a sign that the communist government is preparing for a conflict, U.S. intelligence officials said.

Adm. Thomas B. Fargo, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said North Korea is stepping up flights of MiG jet fighters, but it is not clear why.

"We've seen some MiG activity over water, but I couldn't characterize it as being directed at our surveillance flights," Adm. Fargo told reporters in Tokyo recently. "As a matter of fact, I'm not sure precisely what it's directed at right now, and we're looking at it. But we haven't seen anything that would indicate they have reacted in a manner to affect another intercept or something like that."

On March 2, four North Korean MiG jets intercepted a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft and attempted to force the aircraft to land in North Korea. Adm. Fargo said U.S. forces in the Pacific are postured to deter any aggression by North Korea.

To deal with any North Korean attack, the United States sent bombers to Guam, conducted exercises in South Korea, and kept forces in the region instead of sending them to take part in operations in Iraq, he said.

"We recognized that during this period of time, it would be important to ensure that we had a proper deterrence in place," Adm. Fargo said. "Not to provoke anybody, but to ensure that our force posture was prudent."

Before Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld arrived at the Pentagon, officials and senior officers rarely said publicly that their objective in war was to "kill people." The politically correct terms was "destroy" or "eliminate" and "decimate."

The culture changed during the war in Afghanistan. A reporter asked Mr. Rumsfeld if the goal for U.S. troops was to kill all the enemy possible. "Oh, you bet," he said. "And [allied pilots are] trying to do it every day, and in fact, they're doing it every day. Those trucks that you saw and those buildings you see hit are not empty."

The theme is catching on.

When Gen. Mosely was asked about air power's effects on Iraqi-fielded forces, he replied, "We've laid on these people. I find it interesting when folks say we're softening them up. We're not softening them up, we're killing them."

At a press conference last week, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, was asked the status of the Republican Guard. "A lot of the people have been killed," he said. "A lot of the people that come out after dark to attack our tanks, that might be a line in the shadows the death squads and those sorts of folks a lot of them have been killed as well."

On CNN Sunday, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman, said about Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime: "What's important is the dozen or so leaders of this very repressive regime, that they either be killed or captured or driven away in a way that allows the Iraqi people to design their own future."

The military mission is clear.

Chinese intercepts
China's air force is again getting dangerously close to U.S. reconnaissance aircraft flying along the Chinese coastline, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

One incident last month took place in the South China Sea when a Chinese jet came within 90 feet of a U.S. EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft.

"We're seeing this activity almost every day," said one defense official.

The intercept last month has raised concerns among U.S. defense officials that another Chinese pilot will miscalculate and fly into a U.S. aircraft, as occurred in the April 1, 2001, incident over the South China Sea.

That touched off an international crisis after a Chinese F-8 collided with a EP-3, causing the Chinese jet to crash. The EP-3 was forced to make an emergency landing at a military base on China's Hainan island, where the 23-member crew was held prisoner for 11 days before being released.

Saudi supporter
A Saudi billionaire has written to President Bush endorsing the ongoing war against Iraq. Mohamed bin Issa Al Jaber, owner of the London-based MBI International, wrote Mr. Bush on March 25 when the war was not going as well as it is now.

"History will demonstrate how right you were in making that difficult choice," Mr. Jaber wrote. "It was for Saddam Hussein to comply and I have no doubt that Britain, America and your allies had no alternative but to institute military enforcement when he clearly refused to do so. I believe that I am expressing the feelings of a large number of Arabs who are convinced that an entirely new government in Iraq is a necessary condition if the region is to enjoy peace and progress.

"Despite the distortions in some sectors of the media that serve only to inflame emotions on the street, all forward-thinking Arabs know that change must be imposed if there is to be progress, freedom and stability in our part of the world."

Mr. Jaber, who has business ties with the ruling Saudi family, is one of the few prominent Saudis to publicly support war with its neighbors.

He pledged financial help to help Iraq move from a police state to a democratic government.

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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