On the morning of the 14th of April, the United States, the United Kingdom and France carried out a series of cruise missile against multiple government targets in Syria.

In total, the forces of the three nations fired 105 cruise missiles:

  • 66 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from US Navy ships
  • 19 JASSM-ER cruise missiles were fired from from American B-1 bombers
  • 9 SCALP/Storm Shadow cruise missiles from French Air Force Rafale jets
  • 8 SCALP/Storm Shadow cruise missiles from Royal Air Force Tornado jets
  • 3 Naval SCALP cruise missiles from French Navy ships

According to US military’s Joint Staff, the allocation of missiles to targets was:

  • Barzeh research and development centre (Damascus): 57 Tomahawk and 19 JASSM-ER missiles.
  • Him Shinshar storage site (west of Homs): 9 Tomahawk, 8 British Storm Shadow, 3 MdCN, and 2 French SCALP missiles.
  • Him Shinshar bunker (west of Homs): 7 French SCALP missiles.

“All weapons hit their targets close to the designated time on target,” said Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the US Joint Staff director.

“None of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by Syrian air defenses,” McKenzie 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.”

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Helions

“When you shoot iron into the air without guidance, it has to come down somewhere.”

Very true… I’m sure whatever civilian damage caused will be blamed on us.

Cheers!

Helions
Sceptical Richard

Helions, very interesting and comprehensive article, but I wouldn’t believe everything that is said in the press. I would have thought that Russian submarines follow British ones the whole time (if and when they can) and vice versa. Yes, this could be possible, but I have my doubts. First I very much doubt we have more than one submarine deployed in the med, so the reference to Astute submarines sounds fanciful to me. The fact that an RN submarine did not fire any missiles as part of the attack suggests to me that either there was no submarine available in… Read more »

Helions

Hi Richard, I think your second point is correct and Paul and Andrew below filled in the rest of the blanks… If I were to take “big picture” stab at it, I’d guess that the RN DID have an Astute on scene to get the Kilo’s to reveal themselves and then gleefully led them on a merry chase while the “hunters” were themselves in the cross-hairs of shadowing allied attack boats and P8’s who were busy adding to the Russian boats’ data profiles. The same for the Russian corvettes… Just the speed differential between the two sub classes would allow… Read more »

Paul.P

First question is were Russians hunting a UK sub that wasn’t actually there.
Second question is were UK or US forces hunting the Russian boats? More Type 23/26 and Merlin please plus Akrotiri based Poseidon.
Third question when will see Type 26 in service with TLAM?

Andrew

The best hunter killer subs in the world and the best crew in the world tied up probly the entire Russian navy in the Med

Daniele Mandelli

I cannot see our Astutes being successfully tailed for long by red force SSNs, even if they remained in their baffles.

I agree with Helions. It works both ways. They probably pinged IUSS in the straights of Gibraltar if they came that way and have been tracked ever since.

All very Red October!

G

When you have a 1,000 mile range TLAM, the area of operations is vast. Anyone hunting you without massive air support is at a huge disadvantage. I think this is more of a diversionary tactic than anything else, as Storm Shadows from Cyprus are probably a better option anyway. I hope everyone had fun leading the merry dance.

BB85

Did they fire 105 to mitigate possible interception from Russia? It seems like over kill for three targets. It also highlights how small the uk and french arsenals are in terms of TLAM’s.
I think they should have target asads airfields to take away any opportunity for a repeat. It feels like this was more about making a point than removing his ability to bomb civilians.

Ben P

The UK has a Storm Shadow stockpile of 700+, and a stockpile of 100+ Tomahawks.

Ben P

The attack was about stopping him using chemical weapons, not about stopping him bombing civilians.

Paul.P

Perhaps the swarm attack tactic made is easy to overwhelm the S-200 semi active radar based system. Agree about the megre UK TLAM contribution. Type 26 should fix that, eventually. I think the targets were wisely chosen to make it easy to sustain legality based on a clear humanitarian minimum force argument. Attacking airfields didn’t do much last time around and could be interpreted as interfering in the civil war.

BB85

I was reading a separate blog that TLAM production ended in 2016, so the RN will need to purchase from the US stockpile of 4000, although I don’t see that being an issue. There is a lot of debate regarding Tomahawk vs Stormshadow in terms of range, cost effectiveness and risk. It is interesting that Astute did not fire a single missile and there are reports that this may have been due to it being tracked by Russia and they did not want to openly give away its position. Not that it would have been targeted, but the RN would… Read more »

PierreLM

France…12

UK…8

!Vive la France!

Helions
Steve

I guess we will never find out, but I wonder how many of the token storms shadows got through to their target and how how many got shot down.on route.

Pete

Looking at the aerial photo of the target site for the raf there does not appear to be many buildings of interest.

Small numbers launched… A function of capacity or available airframes or a reflection of confidence in technology to get the allocated job done?

I can imagine that if Russians were advised of targets and they were sitting on the shoulder of the Syrians that it may have been like an attempted skeet shoot except they did not get to shout PULL.

Jonathan

The story in the mail was ridicules, a kilo can’t chase an astute, simple as. A diesel electric boad does not have the endurance to stay with a nuclear boat for more that a few tens of minutes, as far as I’m aware a kilo has an endurance at flank speed in the 10s of miles and can only sustain any level of battery edurance (hundreds of miles) if it crawls along at around 3 knots ( which does not even allow you to make headway against a good tide). The only thing a kilo can do against a nuc… Read more »

Farouk
Julian

As I posted on another article, I do wonder where SPEAR 4 might come into the future picture. SPEAR 2 gave us the Brimstone 2 update to tide us over until SPEAR 3 comes into service. SPEAR 4 is supposed to be an update to the current Storm Shadow until we get the super new SPEAR 5, and if the quality of Meteor, Spear 3, CAMM, Aster etc is anything to go by Spear 5 could be pretty super. The interesting (to me) thing though is that the French operate a naval version of Storm Shadow, MdCN, that can be… Read more »

Lee H

Hi Julian
Will respond later
Cheers
Lee H

DaveyB

The Storm Shadow is over 5m in length which makes it too big for the internal bomb bay of a F35B and would therefor need to be carried on the two inner wing hardpoints.

Julian

Good point but that’s going to be true of any decent-ranged standoff weapon isn’t it? What are the ultimate plans for cruise missile F-35B integrations? I know that Spear 5 is on the roadmap. Will that be designed such that it can fit into an F-35B internal bay? If so I worry about how much that might compromise its range and payload and, given the French have no similar constraints, I can’t see them being happy if any such compromises are non-trivial in nature. Are all cruise missile integrations with F-35 external anyway? The strikes on Syria didn’t penetrate Syrian… Read more »

BB85

I think the MOD is still trying to figure out some of this question for itself. Why do Cruise missiles need to be air launched at all, if sea based systems can launch them from 2,000 km away? Some commentators say the RAF pushed for storm shadow to protect their squadrons when Tomahawk offered the same capability for less cost and reduced risk.

Julian

Well, there must be scenarios surely where something happens somewhere that requires a rapid response and no suitable sea-based assets are available close enough to launch a strike at relatively short notice?

I’m sure the logistics of planning a long range air strike are distinctly non-trivial in terms of getting tankers to the right places and loads of other tricky stuff as well but as a lay person who maybe isn’t aware of all the constraints, intricacies, and typical RN geographical presence I find it reassuring to know that aircraft can also act as a launch platform.

BB85

I agree I don’t really know where I stand on the matter, in an ideal world the UK could afford large stock piles of both. Due to cost we have to utilise Storm Shadow more than Tomahawk and I think it will be the same case when it comes to developing replacements for both systems, in order to get economies of scale one will be prioritised over the other.

Lee H

Morning all Welcome to the new normal, narrative and counter narrative with regards to how “news” is going to be reported. Couple of things: News gets leaked that the RN have soilently deployed an SSN either to or further up the med so that it can, if needed, be in a place to fire cruise missiles at targets within Syria. It is also announced that it is likely that RAF Tornado aircraft, armed with Storm Shadow cruise missiles will be used to launch attacks at targets within Syria. So we have a platform that is designed to approach it’s targets… Read more »

Julian

I watched the US general’s White House briefing live on TV the morning after the strike and he mentioned one thing that Inhaven’t seen picked up on in the U.K. press. Being a USA-dominated event, one of the US reporters asked the general for some extra details on the B1 aspects and he confirmed that they had used JASSM and that they had been escorted to their launch point by fighters to protect them but most interestingly for us in the U.K. he also said that the French and British also had fighter protection for their aircraft. He had already… Read more »

Lee H

Morning
All the focus was on the Tornado and Storm Shadow, Typhoon was on one of a plethora of aircraft deployed to allow it to get on target, it role that night – giving the Tornado the ability to launch its weapon as safely as possible.

Remember guys, those aircraft are up again today quietly going about their business on Op Shader – different weapon load, same type of mission – deterring those that wish to do us or their own people harm.

Sceptical Richard

The RAF also failed to mention that there was most likely Voyager airborne and also probably Airseeker and possibly even Sentry. Aussies probably also had their KC30 airborne as a backup. None of these support assets get mentioned so I’m not surprised that Typhoons were not mentioned.

Julian

A bit more detail on the numbers. The White House briefing did also break down the US ship-launched TLAM numbers by ship. I forget the exact numbers but the ships were a Tico and 2 ABs. The Tico fired the most, one AB a reasonable amount and the other AB a handful. I _think_ the ABs were something like 23 and 7 which would leave 36 from the Tico but there was also one US sub in the mix which fired a few (but not many) so perhaps more like low 30s from the Tico and a handful from the… Read more »

Sceptical Richard

We also had the report on the American ruse to rush two ABs into place but which never fired a saluting gun. Two things going on here I think. First getting enough assets into place as a fallback in case the first packet doesn’t do the trick and you need a follow on strike. Second, deception. Get the other side to track a whole lot of assets in place, all capable of attacking and then finally launch the main strike from Qatar, the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf, ie a different and perhaps unexpected direction. So perhaps the RN sub… Read more »

Mr Bell

Richard is right, there is literally no way an improved Kilo class sub can live with an Astute class. If they are tracking the Astute the Astute must be letting them and also if we are aware we are being tracked by an improved Kilo class then the astute probably has the enemy sub locked in and identified and could destroy it or loose it anytime it wanted.

Nichevo

Or was it a UUV decoy sending Astute-class sonar returns? Was the actual submarine ever seen?