Secretary and Chief of the Defence Staff:
Press Conference at the Ministry of Defence,
London - 22 March 2003
of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon:
Morning Ladies and Gentlemen. If I could say first
of all that I am sorry that I have to confirm that
two Sea King Mk 7 Royal Navy helicopters were involved
in a mid-air collision over international waters south
of Iraq. I can confirm that 7 air crew are missing.
A search and rescue mission has been mounted, but
as yet no survivors have been found. Our priority
at this time is to notify the next of kin at the earliest
opportunity. Cause of the accident is being investigated.
And although this will be of no comfort to the families
concerned, the crash is not believed to be the result
of enemy action. I hope that you will understand why
we cannot give further information until next of kin
have been contacted.
regard to yesterdays CH-46 helicopter crash,
I can confirm that the next of kin of the 8 men killed
in the crash have now all been informed. At the request
of the families, we will not release further details
the past 24 hours you will have seen the military
plan start to take shape on the ground. What we are
looking to do is to achieve a series of effects to
which the Iraqi regime simply cannot respond. We can
do this whilst at the same time reducing the risk
of civilian casualties. Indeed we believe that this
is the right way to minimise such risk. The coalition
is now therefore working simultaneously along several
lines of operation. First of all, through information
operations, we are making clear to the Iraqi Armed
Forces and to Iraqs civilian population, the
coalitions resolve to achieve our objectives
- the removal of Saddam Husseins regime and
its weapons of mass destruction. You will have seen
pictures of the Iraqi Armed Forces responding to this
and recognising that there is no need for them to
fight for Saddam Hussein. Through ground manoeuvre
we are rapidly securing Iraqi territory. Again as
you will have seen from reporting overnight, the Iraqi
51st Division has stopped fighting. The US Armys
Fifth Corps has secured two bridges over the Euphrates.
Admiral Boyce say more about events on the ground
in a moment.
last night was of course dominated by the air campaign,
and in particular by attacks on targets in Baghdad.
I want to say a little more about the underlying purpose
of that campaign. It has sought to meet a number of
objectives. As far as possible we have been attempting
to minimise the risk of the Iraqi regime using its
weapons of mass destruction. First and foremost this
has required attacks on the regimes ability
to communicate and exercise command and control over
these weapons, as well as attacking potential delivery
sites. A particular focus has therefore been on communications
facilities both within Baghdad and throughout Iraq.
want to show how we are aiming to inflict damage on
the Iraqi regime itself, whilst leaving civilian infrastructure
intact. This first slide shows a map of central Baghdad.
Many of the key regime facilities are concentrated
in the centre along the West Bank of the Tigris river.
The box which in a moment will be highlighted in greater
detail, you will be able to see the concentration
of so-called Presidential Palaces and regime headquarters
in one particular area of the city. All along the
river bank is in effect an area closed to ordinary
Iraqis, populated by senior figures in the regime
from which they operate. And our attacks therefore
have sought to send clear signals to that regime that
it can no longer exercise its tyranny over the Iraqi
people. By isolating regime leaders from security
forces under their control we are sending a very clear
message, a message that they can no longer exercise
control through the threat of force, a clear message
as well to the ordinary people
of Iraq that the days of this appalling regime will
soon be over. Finally in order to facilitate such
attacks and enable close air support to our ground
forces, it has been necessary to achieve air superiority
by reducing the threat from the Iraqi integrated air
I want to give you some general examples of the kinds
of targets that we have been attacking. They include,
as you see here, intelligence and security organisations
which are instrumental in the repression of the Iraqi
people. Command and control structures, for example
bunkers in the so-called Presidential palaces. Iraqi
military capability, for example surface to surface
weapons and their integrated air defence system, radar
and surface to air missiles. The targets have been
selected for the effects that will be achieved, rather
than to produce physical destruction for its own sake.
In considering every pre-planned target we go through
a rigorous process of weighing the military advantage
against the danger to civilian life and property.
I personally oversee this process.
me illustrate this point with two examples of the
types of targets which our forces attacked last night.
The main headquarters of the Iraqi intelligence service
in Baghdad, a key part of the regimes intelligence
and security network, was attacked last night by a
United Kingdom tomahawk missile fired from a British
submarine. This was a carefully targeted strike which
will have had significant effect on the ability of
the Iraqi intelligence service to contribute to the
internal repression carried out by Saddam Husseins
regime. Attacks on this and other Iraqi intelligence
service facilities will remove from the Iraqi regime
a key source of its power, reducing the potential
threat to coalition forces and reducing its ability
to terrorise the people of Iraq.
also carried out a successful attack against the main
sector air defence bunker in Kirkuk. This operation
centre provides command and control for Iraqi Air
Force interceptors and strategic surface to air missiles.
By destroying or disrupting the operation centre,
we gain and maintain coalition air space superiority,
reducing the risk to our aircraft operating in the
was asked at yesterdays press conference how
we resolve the apparent dichotomy between our commitment
to the use of minimum force and the overwhelming nature
of the air campaign. I hope that what I have said
today has addressed this issue for you. The use of
overwhelming force during last nights attacks
was not designed to turn Iraq into a wasteland, rather
it was aimed at inflicting damage on the Iraqi regime,
whilst leaving civilian infrastructure as intact as
possible. As last nights dramatic television
coverage showed, the lights stayed on in Baghdad,
but the instruments of tyranny are collapsing.
of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen. Well as you have
heard from the Secretary of State, coalition forces
have continued to make significant progress in all
environments. But before I give you some details about
our campaign so far, I would like once again to echo
the words of the Secretary of State and send my deep
condolences to the families of the Servicemen who
lost their lives last night in that mid-air collision
between two of our helicopters in the Gulf.
we did have a huge increase in activity in the scale
of our coalition effort last night and this tightening
of the screw on Saddams regime included the
high intensity attacks on targets in Baghdad, in Kirkuk
and other areas along the lines the Secretary of State
has described. And in terms of scale I can tell you
that as of early today coalition Air Forces have flown
some 3,000 plus sorties and delivered a very large
package of precision weapons, including the tomahawk
missiles which were fired by our own submarines.
let me give you some more detail about other operations.
Some of you might have expected there to have been
some sort of pause to coalition progress, but this
has not been the case. In the Basra area the Iraqi
51st Division has surrendered and we have many thousand
prisoners of war. 7 Armoured Brigade, the Desert Rats,
have been very much involved in the approach to Basra
and they are on the outskirts at the moment and they
will be consolidating their position today. Further
off to the west, the United States 5 Corps advance
has gone well and they have reached beyond Talil airfields
in the Nazaria area, and they have secured also bridges
over the Euphrates, and they are well placed now for
rapid exploitation towards the north, the west and
of course Baghdad.
back in the south of Iraq, 16 Air Assault Brigade
is now on the move to occupy the southern oilfields
and consolidate the coalition position there. And
with these oilfields now firmly in coalition hands,
our UK engineers are now at work making safe the well
heads which had been prepared for demolition, and
we are also expecting contractors to help them today.
We believe that 9 well heads will need the services
of the contractors. We have had specialist UK teams
trained to deal with ordnance disposal and RAF and
Royal Tank Regiment NBC teams also deployed forward
with the United State regimental combat teams.
report all over the oil infrastructure is that practically
all of the oil and gas separation platforms were mined
or booby-trapped. It doesnt say a lot for Saddam
Husseins thoughts of his own people that he
is prepared to blow up his entire economy. The challenging
task of making all these areas safe is now well under
way. So the southern Iraq oil infrastructure has been
captured intact by the coalition and it certainly
averted the potential possibility of an environmental
disaster, and it really does raise the hope that Iraqs
natural resources can be turned back to the advantage
of the Iraqi people, and of course this is so important
for the Oil for Food Programme.
the maritime front there are a number of challenges,
but the biggest is the need to ensure that seaborne
access to Umm Qasr Port is safe to allow humanitarian
aid to flow quickly into southern Iraq. On the Al
Faw Peninsular operations by 3 Commando Brigade restarted
at first light this morning to secure the entire area.
But the sea mines threat in the waterway there is
real and must be dealt with, and so our mine counter-measure
vessels are on the job HMS Brocklesby, Blythe,
Bangor - they have been at work to ensure safe delivery
of that waterway. And we have also had our UK fleet
clearance diving teams busy in the port area to make
safe any demolitions there. This early start to mine
clearance operations of course, as I said, is to allow
access to key shipping, and particularly RFA Sir Gallahad
will be bringing humanitarian relief into the port.
mentioned yesterday the subject of prisoners of war.
We are looking after their safety. I was asked about
that yesterday. Some have been injured and some of
them are being treated in our mobile hospital, the
now to air. Overnight, alongside the USAF and USN,
the RAF have been heavily involved in the widescale
attacks we have been talking about against key targets,
including Baghdad. All of our aircraft returned safely.
And last night during the air raids we saw the first
operational use of our new United Kingdoms Storm
Shadow missile. This is a missile which is designed
for long range, highly accurate, deep penetration
against key regime targets, and this missile was flown
by our GR4 Tornado aircraft. It was a successful outing.
you will be very aware, as the Secretary of State
has made you aware, of last nights intense bombardment,
but as I say, and as he has said, such intense warfare
is not conducted lightly. Our aim is to dislocate
and destroy the apparatus of the Iraqi regime. And
this morning, as I am speaking, we still have water,
we still have power supplies and so on in Baghdad,
and especially to such essential services as hospitals.
We have no quarrel at all with the Iraqi people.
What are your estimates of the casualties? The Iraqis
have been talking about 200 plus injured, is that
a figure that you could agree with?
I obviously cant at this stage confirm Iraqi
claims about casualties. As I indicated, we have taken
great care in the selection of targets, those targets
have been ones associated with the regime. And as
I hope the illustration on the map showed as well,
many of those targets are in areas that are away from
centres of civilian population, they are not areas
that are associated with ordinary Iraqis. I cant
rule out the risk of some civilian casualties, but
what I can say is that enormous efforts were made
in the careful targeting to avoid those casualties.
I wonder if you could answer these two points. First,
the reports about Saddam being killed or wounded.
Secondly, the fact that so many people were doubting
that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,
after the firing of the 5 scud missiles, or whatever
type of missiles on Kuwait, is it clear now that he
still possesses weapons of mass destruction?
There are of course continuing reports about Saddam
Hussein. I am not in a position to confirm them. It
will not affect our determination to destroy this
regime and free Iraq for its people. As far as missiles
are concerned, we have had a number of missiles fired
into Kuwait. Obviously it demonstrates the ability
of elements of the regime at any rate to continue
their campaign. We are confident that when we have
the opportunity of doing so, we will find weapons
of mass destruction in Iraq.
Can I just ask you about what is going on in Baghdad,
because I think the indications from our correspondent
and other reporters there on the ground are that the
bombing has been having the effect of rallying the
Iraqi people behind Saddam Hussein. Isnt that
a major concern for you given that these people that
you are committed to liberating dont seem too
keen on the idea at the moment, perhaps understandably.
I have not seen the slightest evidence of that, indeed
all of the evidence that I have seen points in exactly
the opposite direction. You
will have seen the numbers of surrenders that have
occurred lately, and indeed one particular example
of one group surrendering simply because the commanding
officer recognised that his own men were drifting
away and were no longer prepared to fight for Saddam
Hussein. Equally we all know the restrictions imposed
on reporters in and around Baghdad, I doubt that there
is much evidence for what you are suggesting.
There are reports that two missiles have caused damage
in southern Iran, could you please clarify that, whether
they were stray missiles from the coalition forces
or maybe from Iraq itself. And also the degree of
surrender by the Iraqi forces, have they slowed down
the operations within Iraq?
Well I cant confirm any suggestions that any
of our missiles have gone astray into Iran. I have
seen those suggestions, obviously they are being investigated
and we are continuing our contacts with the government
there. As far as prisoner surrenders are concerned,
clearly that is helping in the sense that obviously
as our forces are able to move northwards, the surrenders
allow that to take place more easily. Clearly we have
regard to treating prisoners properly. I deployed
an extra set of Britains forces in order to
be able to cope with prisoners of war, but obviously
as the campaign unfolds, we anticipate those kinds
of surrenders continuing.
People surrendering will slow you down far less than
Could you clarify for us something overnight. There
have been various suggestions we could have it all
over by Monday, somebody else was saying it could
be 3 or 4 days. Could you give us your best estimate
as to how long this war is likely to last?
I really do not think it is sensible to talk in terms
of a timescale. This is a military operation and military
operations are subject to a
whole set of uncertainties. What I can say is that
this operation is going according to plan and in many
respects is ahead of the plan, but I dont think
it is sensible to go further than that.
Are you concerned about the Turkish invasion of northern
Iraq? Do you think that is a threat to the territorial
integrity of Iraq, and not
least because it might encourage Iran and other powers
to do it. And can you please update us on any contacts
that have been made with senior Iraqi officers and
the Republican Guard?
We are aware that a small Turkish force has gone into
the north of Iraq, that the size of that force is
consistent with a border policing
operation and the Turks have made clear that they
are only concerned to prevent instability along that
border and to the extent that their forces carry out
those limited operations, then clearly we are relaxed
about it. But obviously it is a sensitive situation
and one that we will keep clearly under control. I
dont want to go into the details of what contacts
there might have been, but it is clear that there
are results on the ground of Iraqi forces surrendering.
There have been reports of British and coalition military
activity in two vital airfields, H2 and H3, can you
comment on that at all?
Not really, no, that is an area on which we dont
have any particular information at the moment.
You mentioned that we are on the outskirts of Basra
at the moment and we are consolidating positions there.
Does that mean our troops are digging in now, or can
we expect Basra to fall at some point today?
Again I am not in the prediction business. Certainly
our forces are close to Basra. It appears to be the
case that regular Iraqi armed
forces have withdrawn from Basra, but there are continuing
elements of Saddams security services in position
maintaining resistance. And actually that seems to
me to be a model for the way in which this regime
operates, the regular armed forces are not armed forces
that you would expect we hope to fight for Saddam.
The ones that we would expect to meet resistance from
are those who have a vested interest in this appalling
regime, that is the security services that have so
terrified and intimidated the Iraqi people over so
many years, it is those people that will continue
Sir Michael, you talked about 3,000 air sorties, was
that simply last night? And also you talked about
the oil and gasfields being booby trapped and mined,
can you give us any detail on that?
Yes, the 3,000 sorties were of that order last night.
I cant give you more details because I havent
had them myself yet, but what is reported is that
the oil platforms in the mouth of the waterway up
to the port of Basra and Umm Qasr, what we found in
the Rumalia oilfields where 16 Air Mobile Brigade
are moving into today, and also on the Al Faw Peninsular
we have found demolitions which were obviously set
to go, but we managed to get in there fast enough
to prevent them being blown, and now we are defusing
Two questions. If Saddams death is confirmed,
will that change strategy? And secondly, how many
days would you say it will be before ground forces
As I said earlier, the objective is to remove weapons
of mass destruction and the control of Saddams
regime in Iraq. If the news of
Saddams death is confirmed and that affects
the resolve of the remaining elements of his regime,
well and good, but it will not affect
our determination to continue to rid Iraq of those
appalling elements and that is central to our campaign
objectives. And I think I have made clear that the
campaign will continue until we have achieved those