OFFICE OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
WASHINGTON, MC, 20301-2400
September 5, 1996
House of Representatives
2240 Rayburn Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-0918
Dear Congressman Burton:
I am responding to your letter of August 1, 1996 to Secretary Perry. We have thoroughly looked into the recent allegations made by Mr. Basulto concerning events that transpired on February 24, 1996 related to the shootdown of two Brothers to the Rescue (BTTR) planes by Cuban MiGs. Our review of events has concluded that at no time was the sovereignty of the United States threatened and our personnel acted properly at all times.
Department of Defense radars do not routinely and systematically track civilian U.S. aircraft operating in international airspace. Our air defense personnel were informed by a Customs radar operator of the MiGs closing on slower aircraft and replied that they also had the aircraft on their radars. However, neither party knew that the two slow-moving aircraft were the BTTR aircraft nor were they aware of the Cuban Government's intentions. The aircraft were operating in a well defined Cuban Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Under those circumstances, it would not have been improper for the Cuban MiG's to carry out a legitimate aircraft identification mission, However, our personnel were not in a position to have anticipated the unwarranted shooting down of the BTTR aircraft.
The northern boundary of the Cuban, ADIZ is the southern boundary of our ADIZ. This boundary has been honored by both the United States and Cuba for many years. Records are not kept on information which would directly answer your question about the reactions of airborne Cuban MiGs operating within their ADIZ to the launch of U.S. military aircraft.
The United States had two aircraft on a heightened state of alert to respond to the Cuban MiGs should they have crossed the 24th Parallel, which they did not. In fact, our radars indicated that no Cuban MiGs approached the 24th parallel (the southern boundary of our ADIZ), or United States airspace. As you may be aware from the ICAO report, our radar data show that the last pair of MiGs-came no closer than 40 nautical miles from the remaining BTTR aircraft.
While there is no excuse for Cuba's actions in the downing of civilian aircraft, it is also important to state that Mr. Basulto had been warned on several occasions by the United States Government as to the dangers inherent in flying in Cuban airspace or in their ADIZ. I trust the above addresses your concerns.
Howard G. DeWolf
Brigadier General, USAF
Director, Inter-American Region
September 13, 1996
House Committee on International Relations
Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere
702 O'Neill Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Re: Brothers to the Rescue
Dear Mr. Kapen:
We have reviewed the letter received by the Honorable Dan Burton from Howard G. DeWolf, Brigadier General, USAF, Director, Inter American Region and would like to explain to you why we believe this response is not only misleading but outright untruthful.
General DeWolf states in his letter that "Department of Defense radars do not routinely and systematically track civilian U.S. aircraft operating in international airspace." That may be an accurate statement generally but on February 24th, 1996 the U.S. government requested that the radar facilities at CARIBROC, NORAD, SEAD and Miami ARTCC track and closely monitor the flights of the three Brothers to the Rescue planes. See paragraph 2.2.4, at page 50, paragraph 220.127.116.11., paragraph 18.104.22.168 and 2.3.3. 1.1 of the ICAO report attached which states in part that:
According to the authorities in the United States: "The specifics of the briefing were that the Miami AIFSS and Opa Locka Tower were to be advised to co-ordinate all flight plans and departure time information with the Watch Supervisor; the Watch Supervisor and/or the Military Liaison Specialist were to track the Brothers to the Rescue transponder codes as long as possible, take detailed notes and advise other facilities (DAICC, NORAD, etc.) of the activity." The military liaison officer then called DAICC (Customs facility in California) supervisor, briefed him on the potential Brothers to the Rescue activity and requested their assistance. Furthermore, the manager of FSDO in Miami requested that the B94 aerostat radar balloon at Cudjoe Key, Florida, to be "put up"...The movements of N2456S, N5485S and N2506, from 14:50 to 15:46 hours on 24 February 1996, were assessed form the following records:.. CARIBROC, NORAD's SEAD sector and Miami ARTCC radar data provided by the United States.
The testimony of Jeffrey Houlihan also contradicts this testimony, please see Exhibit C in the package of information we previously forwarded to you.
General DeWolf goes on to state that "neither party knew that the two slowmoving aircraft were the BTTR aircraft nor were they aware of the Cuban Government's intentions". Based upon the foregoing paragraphs in the ICAO report and Major Houlihan's testimony during my trial this statement is completely inaccurate. See the attached Miami Herald Article in which Major Houlihan asked SEADS if they were watching the Brothers to the Rescue planes (Exhibit E of the information we previously sent you) as well as Major Houlihan's testimony at my trial (See Exhibit F of the information we previously sent you) where he stated that he told the Senior Director Technician at Tyndall Air Force Base "..that I saw a high speed primary only aircraft coming out of the Cuban ADIZ. That I suspected it was a Cuban MiG and that it was going directly over the Brothers to the Rescue... What I told him was do you see the Brothers to the Rescue aircraft? The Senior director Technician replied yes, that he did. I said do you know what's going on with them today and he said yes, we've been briefed. And then said do you see that primary aircraft, 500 knot primary and he sad yes, we see it. I said well, it looks like a MiG 23 to me heading directly towards the United States. I think that's important. And he responded yes, we're handling it, don't worry." Major Houlihan further stated "I took the picture because of the Cuban MiGs. I was concerned. I had never seen Cuban MiGs out there flying before and to see this, it struck my attention, I was worried about what was going on. I had certainly never seen them come outside their ADIZ ... To see two up at the same time, to see them coming directly at the BTTR aircraft and by that, northbound towards the United States, concerned me."
General DeWolf goes on to state in his letter that "the aircraft were operating in a well defined Cuban Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Under those circumstances, it would not have been improper for the Cuban MiGs to carry out a legitimate aircraft identification mission." Based on the Air Force radar and the testimony of Mr. Houlihan stated above and elsewhere it is clear that the MiGs where not within the Cuban ADIZ and that it was highly irregular to see them out flying in the area where they shot down the BTTR aircraft. If what General DeWolf is alluding to is the outer ADIZ which is considered international airspace that would mean that Cuban MiGs could routinely come to within 45 miles of the U.S. or within 3 minutes of the coasts without any reaction from the Air Force.
The most outrageous comment made by General DeWolf is that the Cuban ADIZ is the southern boundary of our ADIZ. While lie is technically correct in that the outer ADIZ extends to the southern boundary of ours. The U.S. government, as reflected by Mr. Houlihan's testimony really considers the ADIZ to be the inner ADIZ comprised of the Cuban twelve mile limit. This statement is made with the purpose of confusing individuals who may not be familiar with these acronyms.
Its interesting to note that General DeWolf quotes the ICAO report only when it suits his purposes. While we agree that the ICAO report states that the last pair of MiGs came no closer than 40 nautical miles from the remaining BTTR aircraft this testimony completely contradicts the conversations of the MiGs with their controllers and is of course based oil information provided by tile same individuals who would have an interest in making sure that this information was not publicly known. There is no doubt that the Cuban MiGs visually identified the last remaining aircraft and clearly chased it above the 24th parallel.
The last paragraph of General DeWolf's letter is meant to confuse the issue and to attempt to put some of the blame on BTTR. General DeWolf states that "Mr. Basulto had been warned on several occasions by the United States Government as to the dangers inherent in flying in Cuban airspace or in their ADIZ". We do not see how this applies to the events of the 24th where the planes where shot down in international waters. Unless he, as alluded to previously in his letter, wants to concede to Cuba, international airspace (the outer ADIZ).
We hope that this letter will assist you in preparing for the hearings on the 18th. if we can be any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Brothers to the Rescue