The Military Times & AntiWar.com & The News & The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – 2018-04-17 00:06:06
Coalition Launched 105 Weapons against Syria,
With None Intercepted, DoD Says
Aaron Mehta and Tara Copp / Military Times
WASHINGTON — As American, British and French ordnance rained down on a trio of Syrian regime targets, Russian air defense systems made no attempt to intercept the weapons, the Pentagon said Saturday.
The attacks may have set the Syrian chemical weapons programs back for “years,” said Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, while acknowledging that the three sites were not the totality of the Syrian chemical weapons program.
The strikes involved ordnance from all three of the western allied nations, from both air and naval assets. Overall, 105 weapons were launched by the three nations. The three targeted areas were:
* The Barzah Research and Development Center, which McKenzie called the “heart” of the chemical weapons program for the Assad regime and is located in “one of the most heavily defended” areas in the world, very close to the capitol of Damascus. This site was targeted by American forces only, with 57 Tomahawk missiles launched by sea and 19 JASSM-ER weapons launched from a pair of B-1 bombers, accompanied by protective fighter coverage. The US assesses this facility was destroyed.
* The Him Shinshar Chemical Weapons facility, located west of Homs, which was hit by all three nations. The US launched nine Tomahawks, the British launched eight Storm Shadow air-launched weapons from a mix of Tornado and Typhoon fighters, and the French launched three naval cruise missiles and two of their SCALP air launched weapons, which are their Storm Shadow equivalent. The US assesses this facility was destroyed.
* The Him Shinshar Chemical Weapons bunker, about 7 kilometers from the previous site. This was struck only by the French, with seven SCALP missiles. In both locations, the SCALP weapons were fired by Rafale fighter, accompanied by Mirage fighters for protection. This location took “damage,” per McKenzie.
Much had been made about the intensity of the air defense systems in Syria, a combination of Syrian and high-end Russian defense systems. Russian news outlets, as well as social media from the region, had claimed as many as 70 percent of coalition weapons were shot down by Syrian or Russian air defenses.
But the Russian systems did not attempt to intercept the incoming weaponry, and the Syrian system launched around 40 surface-to-air missiles after the last targeted weapon hit its target, according to McKenzie.
Overall, the air defense systems were “remarkably ineffective in all domains,” McKenzie said.
However, McKenzie noted the S-400 systems were not turned off, simply not activated, leaving open the option their radar systems were used to tracking incoming threats but the weapons systems were not fired. That those systems were active but not used could also be a sign that the deconfliction line between the US and Russia, which was used to urge Russia not to escalate the situation, had been effective.
At this time, the department believes there were no civilian casualties associated with the strikes, which occurred around 4 AM local time.
None of the allied air assets entered Syrian airspace, due to the stand-off weaponry used. As a result, there were no F-22s used to accompany the B-1s for air protection.
Instead, the bombers were accompanied by a single EA-6B for electronic warfare suppression, potentially against Russian air defenses, as well as tanker support, according to a Joint Staff spokesman.
The inclusion of the EA-6B is notable, as that aircraft was officially retired by the Navy in 2015 in favor of the more advanced EA-18G Growler, but is still in use by the Marine Corps; its presence indicates that three of the four US military branches took part in the still-unnamed operation.
The 19 launches of JASSM-ER from the B-1 on Friday appear to be the first-ever use of the weapon in combat.
Both JASSM and its extended range version are long-range, air-to-ground missiles made by Lockheed Martin, and they feature a stealthy air vehicle, GPS guidance and an infrared seeker. JASSM-ER has almost twice the range of its predecessor — in excess of 500 nautical miles, while the original version was limited to around 200 — which could have enabled the B-1B to remain at a standoff distance from Syrian air defenses while launching the attack.
JASSM-ER entered service with the Air Force in 2014, with the B-1 the only aircraft initially able to launch it. In February, it achieved full operational capability with the F-15E, and the missile is currently being integrated with the F-16C/D and B-52.
The US has about 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria, who are supporting the on-going mission to defeat the Islamic State militants that remain in the region. The missile attacks Saturday morning fueled some concern that those troops could be vulnerable to retaliatory attacks from either Russian or Syrian forces in Syria.
So far the US has yet to see launches of Syrian or Russian jets for a potential response, but McKenzie said the US would be keeping a heightened air defense package flying in the region “for a while” as the situation develops.
The bulk of US seapower was employed against the Barzah Research and Development Center in Damascus. A total of 57 Tomahawks were fired at the facility, which the US considered the heart of Syrian chemical weapons program, said spokeswoman Dana White. An additional nine Tomahawks were fired against a chemical weapons storage facility in Homs.
In the Red Sea, cruiser Monterey fired 30 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and the destroyer Laboon fired seven Tomahawks, McKenzie said. In the north Arabian Gulf, destroyer Higgins fired 23 Tomahawks. In the Mediterranean, the French Frigate Longuedoc fired three versions of their variant of the SCALP missile and the Virginia-class submarine John Warner fired six Tomahawk cruise missiles.
This is believed to be the first known combat use of a Virginia-class submarine.
Chemical Weapons Targeted
On Saturday morning, US President Donald Trump tweeted “Mission Accomplished,” a throwback to the famous statement from President George. W. Bush following the initial invasion of Iraq.
Both McKenzie and Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White would not rule out future strikes in the region, saying that is entirely up to the Assad regime. The use of chemical weapons in the future could lead to more strikes, they said.
The strikes took out “the heart” of the Syrian chemical weapons enterprise, but McKenzie acknowledged that there are other facilities that were not struck due to concerns about civilian casualties. He declined to say exactly how much of the chemical weapons program was taken out.
The US carefully plotted out the strikes to minimize the potential for chemical weapons to leak out of the facilities, with McKenzie saying “we believe we successfully mitigated” the risk. In addition, while it is possible that some material and people were moved from the site in the lead-up to the attack, there were certain pieces of equipment that would not have been able to be relocated, he said.
These sites are believed to be involved in producing a mix of chlorine and sarin, he added. Chemical weapons inspectors arrived in Damascus today and are expected to inspect the sites.
Unlike the strikes against Syria last year, these strikes were designed to directly impact the chemical weapon development process, as opposed to the delivery systems.
Images provided by US officials after the 2017 attack showed some damage to Shayrat, including the destruction of 20 Syrian aircraft, ammunition storage sites, a surface-to-air missile defense system and fuel and ammo depots. However the runway was left intact, and the base was reported to have restarted its chemical weapons activity by June 2017.
White closed her briefing with a warning that a wide-scale disinformation campaign is underway, warning the department had seen a 2,000 percent increase in “Russian trolls” since the strike. The department did not explain how they determined that figure or what the activity was based around.
Valerie Insinna in Washington and Jeff Martin in Tampa, Florida contributed to this report. This story may be updated as new information becomes available.
Pantsir Missile Intercepts US Missile Over Damascus
Syrian Observatory: 65 Allied Missiles Intercepted Over Syria
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(April 15, 2018) — The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has issued a statement on last week’s US-led coalition attack on Syria which backs up Russian assessments that the majority of the missiles were intercepted by Syrian air defense. The Observatory put the figure at 65 out of 105 missiles intercepted.
While there were reports of missile interceptions within minutes after Friday night’s US-led attack on Syria, the exact number has been heavily contested. Syrian state media reported 13 initially, but the figure continued to rise. Meanwhile, the US claimed zero missiles were intercepted.
65 out of 105 would be a remarkable feat, considering these are missiles, and considering the Russians did not use the advanced S-400 in any of the interceptions. That said, the US claim of 0 was never very credible, as video footage purporting to show interceptions was readily available the first night.
In addition to Syria’s S-200 and S-125 systems, mostly designed as anti-aircraft systems, Syria used 2K12 Kub systems, as well as 9k317E Buk missiles, shorter range designs meant to counter missiles and smart bombs. They appear to have been quite successful in doing so.
There are still not good figures on casualties from the attacks, but they would’ve been much larger had nearly two-thirds of the missiles not been intercepted. The US clearly would be interested in downplaying interceptions, but if the anti-Assad Syrian Observatory is making similar claims, it will be difficult to maintain that narrative.
Syria Intercepted Most of Missiles Launched by US, Allies: Russia
(April 14, 2018) — Most of the missiles fired in Syria by the UK, US, and France as part of punitive action against Bashar al-Assad government in response to alleged chemical weapons attacks were intercepted by Syrian air defense systems, RT, Russia international television network, quoted Russian Defense Ministry as saying. The RT said Russian air defense units were not involved in repelling the attack.
The Russian Defence Ministry said Syria’s Al-Dumayr Military Airport, located 40 km northeast from Damascus, was attacked by 12 cruise missiles, adding that all missiles were intercepted by Syrian air defense systems.
Syria deployed Soviet-made surface-to-air missile systems, including S-125 (NATO reporting name: SA-3 Goa), S-200 (SA-5 Gammon), 2K12 Kub (SA-6 Gainful) and Buk, it said.
Earlier, the United States, Britain and France carried out a wave of punitive strikes against Bashar al-AssadÂ´s Syrian regime in response to alleged chemical weapons attacks that President Donald Trump branded the “crimes of a monster.”
As Trump embarked on a White House address to announce the action — taken in defiance of RussiaÂ´s threat to respond — explosions were heard in the Syrian capital Damascus, signaling a new chapter in a brutal seven-year-old civil war.
US Missiles over Damascus,
Intercepted by the Syrian Arab Air Defence
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
DAMASCUS (April 17, 2018) — The regime forces and their allies are continuing the state of alertness in their controlled areas in the Syrian territory, in anticipation for retargeting them by the Trio Coalition “the USA, Britain and France”, which targeted during this dawn, Saturday the 14th of April 2018, the scientific research centers in Jamraya north of Damascus, and Barzeh in the north-west of the capital Damascus, arsenals of the 4th Division and the Republic Guards in the area of Al-Mazza Military Airbase, the arsenals of Al-Kiswah area in the southern countryside of the capital, and the scientific research center in the outskirts of Homs city, where the missiles fired on the latter position, fell away from the target, also violent explosions heard in the Eastern Qalamoun, while no missiles fell on Al-Dumayr and Al-Naseriyah Military Airbases.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights managed to monitor interception by the regime forces to tens of missiles which targeted their positions and military bases in the Syrian territory, where several intersected sources confirmed to the Syrian Observatory, that the number missiles that were downed, exceeded 65 missiles, of the total number of missiles fired by the Trio Coalition, while the air and rocket strikes, caused great material damage, while no information about casualties was reported yet.
And the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights published on the 11th of April 2018, that the regime forces’ controlled areas are witnessing ongoing alertness, where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights obtained information from several reliable sources which confirmed to the SOHR that the regime forces are continuing their state of alertness, and they evacuated all of the main airports and military bases in their controlled areas in the Syrian territory, on renewed orders by the command of the regime forces, and the evacuation and alertness which included all military bases and positions of the regime forces, and which was coincided with the threats of the USA to carry out violent strikes targeting positions of the regime forces inside the Syrian territory, where accompanied by movements and alertness by the regime’s allies of Syrian and non-Syrian nationalities, in anticipation for strikes that may target their positions, by the United States, Britain and France, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights published on Tuesday the 10th of April 2018, that it monitored alertness since the midnight of Monday – Tuesday, and it will continue for 72 hours, as a part of the preparations of the regime forces in anticipation for possible strikes expected to be carried out by the United States, Britain and France, against the regime forces on the Syrian territory, on orders from the command of the regime via telegrams, to carry out a full and immediate alertness lasts for 72 hours, within all the military bases and airports in the capital Damascus and the provinces of Rif Dimashq, Al-Suwaidaa, Homs, Tartus, Latakia, Deir Ezzor, where these orders issued by the regime forces, were coincided with instructions obtained by their allies of non-Syrian nationalities, to alert in anticipation for the same strikes, which the Trio Coalition intends to carry out inside the Syrian territory, where the positions of the regime’s allies witnessed establishment of fortifications and preparations for the safeguarding of these strikes, which is expected to be carried out at any time, in the wake of threats by the Trio Coalition, which threatened to carry out strikes against the Syrian regime, as a part of the international action after the massacre of Douma in the Eastern Ghouta, which left hundreds of casualties and wounded.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
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