The Pentagon is ready to put the equivalent of a "radio station in the sky" over Haiti to broadcast messages to the Haitian military and its citizens, Defense Department officials say.
The missions would be handled with aircraft run by stealthy special operations and psychological operations units. They flew similar missions during the incursion into Panama in 1989 and the war against Iraq in 1991, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.The units would make use of specially outfitted aircraft such as EC-130s, which are slow-moving propeller planes, filled with broadcasting and electronic monitoring equipment.
"It's like a radio station in the sky," said one official familiar with the aircraft. "It sends down a radio signal that can be picked up on the ground."
The flights are expected to begin within the next two weeks. The aircraft could use bases such as MacDill Air Force Base in Florida or Fort Bragg, N.C., the official said. The aircraft are capable of being refueled in the air.
Their messages would support those who oppose the military chiefs who run Haiti and would be aimed at convincing the general populace not to go to sea in the hope of gaining entry to the United States, he said.
The official said that even though few people in Haiti have television, the use of televised broadcast signals was also being considered.
Pamphlets could also be dropped from the aircraft in order to bolster the message transmitted over the airwaves.
Defense Secretary William Perry, asked during a photo session on Monday about the potential for broadcasting into Haiti, replied, "We are not now broadcasting from either planes or ships. That's an option that is available to us, and I can't comment as to when or whether we will do that."
However, a senior Pentagon official who spoke on condition of anonymity said it appeared that no opposition was arising against the proposed mission.
"Nobody's saying it won't happen," he said.