Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder Holds a … – Department of Defense

BRIGADIER GENERAL PAT RYDER: Good afternoon, everyone.  A few things at the top, and then we’ll get right to your questions.

This morning, at the bilateral meeting with President Biden and Prime Minister Modi, Secretary Austin shared perspectives on the tremendous strides both countries’ militaries have made to promote peace and security.

And Secretary Austin is scheduled to attend the state dinner to celebrate over 75 years of deepening partnership between the United States and India and the bonds that link our peoples together.  The Secretary’s been looking forward to these engagements, especially following his recent trip to India, where the United States and India established an ambitious new roadmap for defense industrial cooperation.

As Secretary Austin said while he was in India, the U.S.-India partnership is a cornerstone of a free and open Indo-Pacific and our deepening bonds show how technological innovation and growing military cooperation between two great powers can be a force for global good.

Also today, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, or DPAA, unveiled the 2023 POW/MIA Recognition Day poster in the POW/MIA Corridor here at the Pentagon.  The posters are an annual tradition and a visual representation of the DOD’s efforts for the fullest possible accounting of Americans still missing from past conflicts.  This year, National POW/MIA Recognition Day will fall on September 15th.

From conflicts dating back to World War II, there are still nearly 82,000 Americans who remain unaccounted for.  Thanks to their diligence and dedicated efforts, DPAA successfully accounted for 166 missing service members over the last fiscal year, bringing important closure to many families and enabling us to pay proper tribute to fallen American warriors.

In other news, Secretary Austin will welcome Italy’s Minister of Defense Guido Crosetto here at the Pentagon tomorrow.  The leaders are expected to discuss a variety of topics, to include Italy’s expansive contributions to the international security as a security provider in the Balkans, Europe’s Eastern Flank, Lebanon, Iraq, and Africa, as well as Italy’s newest naval deployment to the Indo-Pacific.  A full readout will be posted to following the meeting.

Also tomorrow, Deputy Secretary of Defense Hicks will travel to U.S. Southern Command headquarters in Miami, Florida, where she’ll meet with the USSOUTHCOM Commander General Laura Richardson and senior staff to discuss implementation of the National Defense Strategy and strategic threats, to include the impact of climate change on national and regional security.  She’ll also meet with junior and mid-career enlisted and commissioned service members and tour local facilities to discuss quality of life issues, in support of Secretary Austin’s taking care of people priorities.

And finally, I know we’ve all been following very closely in recent days the ongoing rescue effort for the submersible Titan and its crew.  As you are aware, the U.S. Coast Guard remains the lead agency for U.S. efforts and we remain grateful for their leadership.

The Department of Defense is supporting the Coast Guard and partner agencies, along with the broader international effort, with a range of key capabilities.  The U.S. Navy has provided a flyaway deep ocean salvage system used for the recovery of large, heavy undersea objects, such as aircraft or small vessels, and salvage and diving subject matter experts to assist in the rescue effort.  Plus, U.S. Transportation Command has deployed U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft to move remotely-operated vehicle assets and supporting equipment into the area from both the U.S. and Europe.

We all recognize the urgency of this effort and I know our thoughts and prayers are with the Titan crew, their families, and with all of the responders who are working around the clock in support of this operation.

Again, the U.S. Coast Guard is the lead agency.  In fact, it’s my understanding Coast Guard leaders will brief the media with the latest information today at 3 pm.  So I’d refer you to them for the most current operational updates.

And with that, I’m happy to take your questions.  We’ll start with AP.

Q:  Thank you.  One quick operational thing and then another question.  Does the U.S. have any assessment on the damage to the bridge to Crimea that was apparently damaged by Ukranian fire?

And secondly, can you bring us up to date on the F-16 training and the F-16s overall?  Has the U.S. received any formal requests from other countries to transfer either assets or training or anything like that, that you’re aware of?  And has the U.S. made any decisions on whether or not it will provide trainers or anything like that?  Just can you just update us on the latest on that?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  In terms of Ukraine, I don’t have any operational updates to provide, Lita.  Certainly, we continue to monitor the situation there.  I’d refer you to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense to talk about those kinds of aspects from the battlefield.

As it relates to F-16s, as you know, this was a topic of discussion last week at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.  The Netherlands and Denmark are in the lead, in terms of developing the training program for Ukrainian F-16 pilots.  I’d refer you to them to talk about the timing and the eventual location of that F-16 training.

We have received a request from Denmark to support F-16 training, which would be expected.  That is currently under review, and again, when we have updates to announce, we — we certainly will.

What we anticipate going forward is that, before the end of the year obviously, that F-16 training will start somewhere in Europe.  The United States will work closely with our allies to implement that training, but again, the Dutch and the Danes are in the lead.

Q:  Can you — you said it’s under review.  What — what does that — who is that?

GEN. RYDER:  So process-wide, those requests, per standard, are submitted through the State Department, then they would come to the DOD for review.  Again, we’ll keep you updated in terms of the turnaround times on those, but obviously this is something that we recognize the urgency of and we’ll work very quickly on.  Thank you.

Q:  … is that a Air Force process to look at the training or is that a DOD?

GEN. RYDER:  This would be at the DOD level.  OK?

Let me go over here to Matt.

Q:  Thanks, Pat.  A couple of questions on the submersible.  Do you have any updates on the debris field that we’ve heard about possibly being discovered near the site of the Titanic wreckage?  Also, any updates on U.S. military assets that are moving in to assist with the efforts?  Is this still characterized as a search and rescue effort?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, so from an operational standpoint, Matt, again, I’d refer you to the Coast Guard.  Obviously, you know, you’re tracking they put out a tweet today about the debris field.  I really don’t have any granular detail to provide from the podium here.

I highlighted some of the assets that the U.S. Navy has provided, and again, USTRANSCOM C-17s are helping to ferry equipment that can be used in that effort, but beyond that, the Coast Guard would be in the best position to …

Q:  … as a follow-up, on the costs, with the Coast Guard being the lead of the U.S. effort, how do costs work out?  Do the — does the U.S. Navy foot the bill for their own efforts or can you speak to how that works?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, so a couple of thoughts on that.  So from a DOD perspective, I don’t have a cost estimate to provide, and I’d refer you to the Navy and the Coast Guard for their individual efforts.

I would say that when it comes to things like operating aircraft, those come from appropriated funds which are already budgeted for.  So those are hours that already have been paid for.

And then taking a — a step back here, again, you know — and I know I don’t have to tell you this — what we’re talking about here is an effort to try to save human lives.  And so certainly worthwhile and something that we’re glad, from a DOD standpoint, that we can support the Coast Guard in their effort on that front.

Q:  Thanks.

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you.


Q:  Thank you, General.  On the POW and MIA issues, how many U.S. POW and missing military are still in North Korea?  And what is the current status of the repatriation of U.S. military remains?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thank you for the question.  I’d refer you to the DPAA on that.  They’ll be able to provide you with some additional details on that.

Q:  One more on North Korea.  It was reported that North Korean ships have docked in a Russian port.  We don’t know about what items are in the ship, but in a recent letter sent by North Korean Kim Jong-un to Russian President Putin and — North Korea and Russia president to deepen military cooperation.  What are your concerns about this?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, certainly, you know, we are aware that Russia and DPRK maintain some type of relationship.  As it pertains to a ship and what may or may not be on that, that’s just not something I can go into.

Q:  Do you think that they’re going to maybe exchange some kind of military …

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, I don’t — I don’t want to speculate.


GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, I’m not — I’m not going to talk about intelligence and I’m — nor am I going to speculate.

But let me go back to — right here.

Q:  Thank you so much, Pat.  A few more on this submersible.  What did the saga around the Titan expose to you about potential gaps in the U.S. military’s ISR capabilities, specifically for undersea domains?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks for the question.  So really, let’s kind of separate what you’re asking here.  Really two different things, right?  So one is an international search and rescue effort for a commercially-owned and commercially-operated vehicle in a very deep part of the North Atlantic.  And so when you just take a step back again and look at the speed of response, when it comes to the Coast Guard and the international community, I think that, in and of itself, is pretty impressive.

When you talk about things like maritime domain awareness from a U.S. military standpoint, I would say that the United States is the best in the world when it comes to that, and clearly, this is something we talk about a lot, in terms of working with our allies and partners to help enhance their own capabilities, but we are confident that we have sophisticated capabilities that are geared towards our national security interests and potential threats.

Q:  Just a quick follow-up.  There aren’t actually many types of underwater drones that exist right now that are capable of salvaging any objects from 12,000-plus feet below the sea.  And so does OSD see a need to invest in buying or developing more UUVs to operate at extreme depths?  I believe it was Canadian and French capabilities that went the deepest in this case, so.

GEN. RYDER:  Well — so now we’re kind of getting into the — again, comparing a little bit of apples and oranges, right?  So the U.S. military is focused on defending the nation and defending, you know, our allies and partners around the world.  And so we are going to build our force based on the capability requirements that we have.  And so I’ll just leave it at that.

Q:  So that mission doesn’t require you to have drones at such deep depths?

GEN. RYDER:  So again, the Coast Guard — this is a search and rescue operation for a commercially-owned, commercially-operated submersible.  And again, you know, we do have capabilities to go very deep but your question was do we need to invest essentially in drones to go deeper?

And again, a primary focus of the United States military writ large, while search and rescue is certainly an aspect of that, you know, there’s also broader questions to take into account, in terms of what is — what is the threat, what do the capabilities require, and again, we will continue to invest in the right capabilities, as they relate to the National Defense Strategy.

Let me go to Phil here.

Q:  (Inaudible) questions, first on Ukraine, and after, I — following up on Lita’s question.

You know, there’s a Russian official being quoted saying that the attacks on the bridge were plotted by London (inaudible) saying London.  Was the United States or its ally — Western allies involved in planning the attacks on the bridge?

And — and also, on the submersible, you know, is the U.S. military still adding capabilities to the search or is it pausing that now with the discovery of the debris field?  You know, is it — where — where is — where are you on that process?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah.  So on the first question, I mean, I think, you know, we’ve been very clear from the beginning of Russia’s invasion and very clear in terms of the security assistance that the United States and its allies are providing.

You know, I’m not going to speak for the United Kingdom but I’m pretty confident when I say that this is Ukraine’s fight.  They are planning and executing that fight.  Our focus is on working with them and our allies and our partners to ensure that they have the combat capabilities they need to defend their country and take back sovereign territory.

Q:  So the U.S. didn’t help them pick that target?

GEN. RYDER:  Again, it’s their fight.  They’re picking the targets and they’re executing this mission.

When it comes to the submersible and the debris field, again, Phil, I’d refer you to the Coast Guard.  They are in the lead, they are managing the unified command that is overseeing this operation.  And so we would be in a support role in terms of requested capabilities.

Q:  (Inaudible) whether you were adding (inaudible) …

GEN. RYDER:  Oh, I listed out right now what we’re providing.  I’m not aware of any additional requests at this time, so.  OK.

Let me go back here.  Yes, ma’am?

Q:  Thank you, sir.  Kimberly Underwood from (inaudible) SIGNAL Magazine.  I wanted to ask about the new INDUS-X partnership and if you can speak to who might be on the senior advisor groups)?  And then how will the Secretary guide and shape this new partnership?  And I assume maybe his meetings with Prime Minister Modi this week would be addressing part of the shape of INDUS-X.

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  So a few things on this.  As you highlighted, we did announce this week the India-U.S. Defense Acceleration Ecosystem, or INDUS-X, as you highlighted, with the focus of expanding strategic technology partnership and defense industrial cooperation between the United States and India, in terms of our governments, business, and academic institutions.

As you highlighted, there will be a senior advisor group that will assess progress of this collaboration and make recommendations to both the defense establishments in India and the United States and other INDUS-X stakeholders for future work.

Members of that group will include the U.S. Institute of Peace, Carnegie India, the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum, and the Society of Indian Defense Manufacturers.  And I would point you to the DOD website.  We have a fact sheet that lists all of this out in detail.  OK?

All right, let me go to Ryo and then right back to

Q:  Thank you very much.  I want to follow up about the defense cooperation with India.  U.S.-India officials said that one of the deliverables out of the leader’s meeting is a ship mutual agreement that will allow the U.S. Navy to undertake repair works in India shipyards.  So could you give us more specifics on this agreement?  And how significant is it for the U.S. Navy operations in the region?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, so kind of, you know, broadly speaking, Ryo, in light of the Minister — or Prime Minister’s visit today and Secretary Austin’s recent visit and all of the engagement that we’ve had with India, this is really part of a wide ranging strategic partnership in which we see defense and security cooperation really becoming central to our strategic relationship.  And the focus here is really on a continued commitment to defense cooperation, to promote regional security and stability, not only in the Indo-Pacific region but globally.

So to answer your question, we’ll have much more to follow in the near future, but the aim here is to make India a logistics hub for the United States and other partners in the Indo-Pacific region.  And so we intend to support India in the creation of logistics, repair, and maintenance infrastructure for aircraft and ships.  So again, much more to follow in the days ahead but that is obviously something that will be important as we work together to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Q:  A follow-up — so does the U.S. Navy intend to increase the cooperation in the Indian Ocean, as they have a more robust logistics hub …

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, so I don’t have anything to announce right now, in terms of force presence.  Clearly, you know, we continue to cooperate and work with India.  The focus here is on working with India to increase their capacity but, you know, again, we’ll have more updates to follow in the days ahead.  Thank you very much.

Let me go to

Q:  Hi.  This is Zamone Perez with Military Times.

GEN. RYDER:  Military Times, I apologize.

Q:  With this enhanced military partnership between India and the United States, is there a concern about India’s press crackdown and the lack of transparency on military issues?  One of my colleagues in India, Vivek Raghuvanshi, has been imprisoned for over a month on allegations that his reporting is tantamount to spying or espionage.  Will defense officials here push for more transparency and press freedom in India as part of their partnership?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, so I’m not going to speak for India, in terms of its own policies.  Obviously, from a United States standpoint, as you just saw from the White House, we do place an emphasis on press freedom and the importance of engagement with press and a free and open press — free and independent press.

In terms of our relationship with India, again, I think the world’s two largest democracies, we have a lot to gain from working together, in terms of preserving peace and stability and security in the region.  And so going forward, that will continue to be our focus.

Q:  Just a follow-up — will DOD commit to inquiring about Vivek’s situation?

GEN. RYDER:  Again, in terms of the diplomatic relations between the United States and India, when it comes to press freedoms, you know, certainly I’d refer you to the State Department.  Again, in our engagements with India, we again will continue to highlight our views, in terms of the importance of press engagement.  Thank you.


Q:  Undersecretary Kahl headed into South Korea and discussed about the inaugural meeting of a nuclear consultative group.  Can you tell me about when you (inaudible) first meeting of the nuclear consultative meeting and who will be the U.S. delegate?

GEN. RYDER:  So I don’t have any updates to provide right now but, you know, when we do, we’ll certainly make that available.

Q:  So USS Michigan, a USSGN depart from South Korea today.  Could we expect them come back to South Korea again?  And also is there a plan to send SSBN, not SSGN, to South Korea?

GEN. RYDER:  So I don’t want to get into potential future deployments of aircraft.  Certainly, you’ve heard Secretary Austin and others talk about the fact that we will on occasion deploy strategic assets to South Korea to demonstrate our support, to demonstrate extended deterrence, and again, to focus on interoperability between our forces, but I don’t have anything to announce today.  Thank you.

All right.  Yes, sir?  Yeah.

Q:  So last week, some media report that Japan is in talk to provide artillery shells to the U.S. to bolster stocks for Ukraine (inaudible) against Russia.  So can the Pentagon confirm that such discussions are taking place with Japan?

GEN. RYDER:  So I’m not going to speak for Japan, in terms of what it may or may not provide to Ukraine.  Certainly, the topic of Ukraine security assistance is something that Secretary Austin speaks to all of our allies and partners about.  And when it comes to the assistance that Japan has already provided, yeah, we are very grateful for that, but I don’t have any more specifics to provide.  Thank you very much.

Time for a couple more.  Yes, go to the back here.  Yes, ma’am?

Q:  So OceanGate, which is the company that owns the submersible, just released a statement saying that they sadly believe that all five lives have been lost on the Titan.  And so I’m just wondering if now this shifts to a recovery operation and if the Navy vessel that’s been employed there is going to be shifting to recovery?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, so I was not tracking that statement, so breaking news here in the briefing room, and very sad to hear that.  Again, the Coast Guard is in the lead on that, so they would make the determination, in terms of how to characterize the operation.

So we’ll break here in a minute, cause I’m sure you all want to see what they have to say, but yeah, again, we’ll — our focus will be on supporting the Coast Guard in their efforts as we go forward.

Q:  And then one follow-up on F-16s.  Sorry, total turnaround.  You mentioned that you’ve received a request from Denmark to support the F-16 training.  Can you elaborate on that a bit?  Does that mean they’ve requested U.S. trainers, they’ve requested that their planes could be sent to Ukraine?  What does that actually look like?

GEN. RYDER:  So because it’s a U.S. aircraft, per standard, requesting the ability to do that third party transfer, it’s an administrative requirement, in terms of being able to use their capabilities to conduct that kind of training.  Again, we’ll review that.

So let me go to Ashley for the last question here.

Q:  Back to India, is there any early readouts that you can give us of agreements that have come into place, whether it’s joint production of a jet fighter engine, tech sharing, or any other arrangements?

GEN. RYDER:  I can’t — you know, I know the — the President and the Prime Minister just met, so I’m confident there’ll be readouts of their engagements here shortly.  Certainly, we’ll take that question, and if we have more to provide from the Pentagon, we’ll send that out for you.  OK?

Thanks very much, everybody.  I appreciate it.


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