US, UK, France launch strikes on Syrian chemical facilities
US, French and UK forces launched strikes on Syrian chemical facilities in the morning hours of April 14 in response to chemical attacks used by the Syrian government early April.
US guided missile destroyer USS Higgins and USS Laboon, guided missile cruiser USS Monterey and Virginia-class submarine USS John Warner (SSN-785) were joined by French FREMM frigate FS Languedoc and a UK Royal Air Force Tornado jet in launching Tomahawk land attack missiles and MBDA-made cruise missiles referred to as Scalp in French and Storm Shadow in UK service.
The allies fired a total of 105 weapons at the targets.
The ally attacks were in response to Syrian leader Bashar Assad using chemical weapons against his own people on April 7, killing up to 75 people, including children.
This is the second time the United States struck Assad’s chemical network. In April 2017, Trump ordered an attack against the Shayrat air base after Syrian aircraft at the base dropped bombs containing the nerve agent sarin. Some 58 missiles hit the aircraft and chemical weapons facilities at the base.
The April 14 strikes hit Bashar Assad’s chemical weapon research, development and production facilities. The strikes tonight were far harder than the ones last year, when the United States launched 58 missiles against the Shayrat air base following a chemical attack.
“Obviously, the Assad regime did not get the message last year,” US Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said.
The strikes now send a very clear message to Syrian leaders “that they should not perpetrate another chemical weapons attack for which they will be held accountable,” the secretary said.
The first target was a scientific research center in the greater Damascus area. The military facility was a center for research, development, production and testing of chemical and biological agents, the general said. The second target was a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs. “We assess this was the primary location of Syrian sarin and precursor production equipment,” he said.
According to the UK defense ministry, analysis of the effectiveness of the strike is currently underway, but initial indications are that the precision of the Storm Shadow weapons have resulted in a successful attack.
While there were reports of Syria claiming to have shot down several cruise missiles, none of them were confirmed.
None of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by Syrian air defenses,” US Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the Joint Staff director, said. “We have no indication that Russian air defenses were employed.”
Syrian response was ineffectual as the Syrians launched surface-to-air missiles on a ballistic trajectory. “Most of the launches occurred after our strike was over,” the general said. “When you shoot iron into the air without guidance, it has to come down somewhere.”
Russian ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov warned following the attack that actions undertaken on April 14 would not be left without consequences.
“The worst apprehensions have come true. Our warnings have been left unheard. A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences. All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris,” the Russian ambassador said.
In a tweet on April, French defense minister Florence Parly shared a video of FS Languedoc carrying out the first operational strike of the new ship-launched MdCN cruise missile on Syrian targets.
Tir d’un missile de croisière naval depuis une de nos frégates multimissions cette nuit en Méditerranée. Objectif : un site de production d’armes chimiques du régime syrien. pic.twitter.com/A4hO0EtkvQ
— Florence Parly (@florence_parly) April 14, 2018
The US Navy shared videos of guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey firing Tomahawk land attack missiles.
UK Ministry of Defense on April 14 shared photos of Tornado jets armed with Storm Shadow missiles ahead of launch.
— Ministry of Defence ?? (@DefenceHQ) April 14, 2018