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Central Command moves field test to Qatar

By DAVID BALLINGRUD and KRIS HUNDLEY
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 12, 2002

U.S. Central Command in Tampa will send about 600 people and high-tech battlefield control equipment to Qatar in November.

Some of the materiel headed to the small nation -- which might be used as a staging area for military strikes against Iraq -- is being assembled at the Raytheon Co. facility in the Tampa Bay area.

But the Central Command move to Qatar will be brief and temporary, a spokesman said, and is not intended as a warning or threat to Saddam Hussein.

"I wouldn't make that connection," said Lt. Col. Jim Yonts. "It is a continuation of an exercise called Internal Look, which we have done every two years since 1990. It's a way to test our field command structure, and it involves all directorates -- operations, intelligence, logistics, everything."

Yonts said that in previous years, Internal Look has been held in the United States.

It is being moved to Qatar this year because "it allows us to train in a region where we already have operations and responsibilities," he said. "It's a logical choice."

Setting up the exercise, conducting it and then breaking it down again for return to the United States should take about three weeks, he said. A start date in November has not been set.

Among the equipment due for testing is the DJC2, or "deployable joint command and control" facility. It is a modular, expandable, high-tech field headquarters that would coordinate a variety of activities and respond quickly to the battlefield's changing demands.

Shipping containers with components of the DJC2 were gathered at the Raytheon site this week, partially shielded from view by tenting and protected from public curiosity by fences topped with barbed wire.

The equipment has been tested at the Raytheon facility in recent weeks, Yonts said. A Raytheon spokeswoman declined to comment.

The exercise does not mean that Gen. Tommy Franks, head of U.S. Central Command, will move from his Tampa headquarters.

"I don't know what's on his calendar, but it would not be unusual for him to attend an exercise like this," Yonts said.

Although Central Command says the exercise is not intended to intimidate Hussein, the Iraqi leader might see it differently.

For months, the U.S. military has been building up its facilities and materiel at al-Udeid air base in Qatar, which likely would be a major U.S. asset in any war against Iraq.

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