Excerpts from US DoD News Briefing
Monday, May 3, 1999 -- - 2:00 p.m.
Presenter: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon,
Also participating Major General Chuck Wald, .
... Q: General, there's been some concern raised in Europe about the possibility of A-10s using the depleted uranium munitions, especially when they go after the armor. Are we using any of these munitions now against the...
Major General Wald: Yes. And the 30mm on the A-10. I think it's almost
-- I've heard that question a lot, and I've been thinking about it. I've
been around the A-10s for a long time. I know that I see the munitions
handlers put these bullets in the aircraft, holding on to them for 20 years,
so they've done a lot of scientific studies on these things, and there
doesn't seem to be a problem. So I don't think there's a problem at all
with that, and it hasn't been a problem for any of us, so it's kind of
Q: I want to make sure that I understand General Wald on one point. The DU shells. Have the A-10s actually been firing them in addition to simply carrying them?
Major General Wald: Yes.
Depleted uranium results from the enriching of natural uranium for use in nuclear reactors. Natural uranium is a slightly radioactive metal that is present in most rocks and soils as well as in many rivers and sea water. Natural uranium consists primarily of a mixture of two isotopes (forms) of uranium, Uranium-235 (U235) and Uranium-238 (U238), in the proportion of about 0.7 and 99.3 percent, respectively.
The A-10s were the anti-tank weapon of choice in the 1991 war against Iraq. It carries a GAU-8/A Avenger 30 millimeter seven-barrel cannon capable of firing 4,200 rounds per minute. During that war it fired 30 mm rounds reinforced with depleted uranium, a radioactive weapon.
During DESERT STORM the Air Force fired 30mm Armor Piercing Incendiary munitions using a depleted uranium penetrator slug from the GAU-8 Gatling gun mounted on the A-10 Aircraft. The 148 A-10s that deployed to Saudi Arabia flew 8,077 combat sorties. The Air Force fired a total of 783,514 rounds of 30mm API in the Gulf War.
Since Each round contains approximately 0.66 pounds of DU, the Air Force expended a total of 259 tons of DU in the Gulf.
There is solid scientific evidence that the depleted uranium residue
left in Iraq is responsible for a large increase in stillbirths, children
born with defects, and childhood leukemia and other cancers in the area
of southern Iraq near Basra, where most of these shells were fired. Many
U.S. veterans groups also say that DU residues contributed to the condition
called "Gulf War Syndrome" that has affected close to 100,000 service people
in the U.S. and Britain with chronic sickness.