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VOA-TV Interview With Robert Martinage


VOA-TV’s David Borgida interviews Robert Martinage, Senior Defense Analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

MR. BORGIDA
Joining us now, Robert Martinage, Senior Defense Analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. You're a defense expert, so you must have some clue, Mr. Martinage, about what the planes are doing flying off the aircraft carriers in the Gulf. What are they doing, surveillance of the neighborhood, in effect?

MR. MARTINAGE
Well, that's part of it. Of course, they are continuing to enforce the northern and southern no-fly zones and, as part of that, going after Iraqi air defense sites, air defense radars, missile launchers, and other targets of concern.

Beyond that, just exercising, getting used to the terrain, the area around there, so that if and when war comes, they're better prepared.

MR. BORGIDA
Are they also, in effect, trying to confuse the Iraqis; in some sense, the more you do it, the more you get used to it, and the more the Iraqis will see, in their radar screens, what's going on, so that if there is a first strike—“if,” I underscore—they might not know when and how it will be coming.

MR. MARTINAGE
That's part of it. What also is going on is called intelligence preparation of the battlefield. We're trying to light up the different radar and other sensor systems and get an idea of what frequencies they operate on, so that later on we can jam those radars more effectively.

MR. BORGIDA
You're an expert, too, in high technology, so tell our viewers how the U.S. military is using high technology these days and how that compares to the Gulf War over a decade ago.

MR. MARTINAGE
One example would be, in the Gulf War, only three different types of aircraft could carry so-called precision-guided munitions. Now, with a few exceptions, every type of aircraft in the U.S. inventory can drop these PGM's. So, in the first Gulf War, about eight or nine percent of the ordnance dropped in Iraq was precision-guided. In this upcoming war, they're likely to see 80 percent and maybe even greater of the ordnance being precision-guided.

MR. BORGIDA
Let's talk for a moment about weather, which is also very key. Clearly, you're not going to be going to war, if there should be one, today or tomorrow. There is more diplomacy at hand. And there is talk among the military community that the longer this takes, the hotter it will get out there. What does this mean for the troops?

MR. MARTINAGE
I think certainly we'd prefer not to be fighting in the heat of summer if we can avoid it. But I think a few weeks isn't really going to matter, and it will make things maybe a little bit more difficult but not tremendously so. I think our forces will do fine, having another couple of weeks to prepare and rehearse and exercise with their equipment in the field.

MR. BORGIDA
And the conditions, too, the sandstorms. We talked about this on the program the other day, how tough these sandstorms are and how the sand just gets everywhere. Is that something that the troops have to deal with?

MR. MARTINAGE
Sure it is, but that affects both sides. And the U.S. is much better positioned than the Iraqi military to deal with sandstorms or fighting at night.

We have GPS receivers throughout our force that allow us to maneuver in sand, during the night, during bad weather conditions.

And we can also operate at night much more effectively than the Iraqi military. So, yes, sandstorms are bad, but they affect both sides.

MR. BORGIDA
What might you expect from the Iraqi military at this stage of the game?

MR. MARTINAGE
At this stage of the game, it's hard to say. I think what people worry about is, once Iraq really believes, or Saddam Hussein believes, that war is coming, what kinds of dirty tricks might the Iraqi military do?

For instance, lighting oilfields on fire, blowing up some dams, attacking U.S. troops in forward positions with chemical weapons, and so on. Those are kind of on Rumsfeld's list of things that could go wrong that we worry about.

MR. BORGIDA
And that's something the troops are preparing for, you would presume?

MR. MARTINAGE
Yes, absolutely. We're preparing to move rapidly on the oilfields, to seize control of them as soon as we can.

We're trying to do psychological operations to convince military commanders and troops on the ground in Iraq not to use chemical weapons because they will be held accountable during the war or after the war.

And of course our troops are rehearsing with protective gear against chemical and biological weapons.

MR. BORGIDA
It's tough duty out there for them certainly. Robert Martinage, Senior Defense Analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Mr. Martinage, thanks so much for your insight. We appreciate it.

MR. MARTINAGE
You're welcome.

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