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.”


  1. “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.


    • 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 place at the time of the attack or one was, but it was not required to contribute. However I very much doubt that if the RN would have been in a position to contribute they wouldn’t have done so, even if just with a couple of missiles, so either they weren’t there, suffered a malfunction or, perhaps, indeed were being harassed by a Russian submarine and decided to depart in a different direction (but I doubt it).

      • 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 the Astute to “sprint and drift” and lead “Hansel and Gretel” further astray with a trail of acoustic breadcrumbs if you know what I mean… 😀

        I’d love to be a fly on the wall when all of our folks get together for the hotwash on THAT little adventure! 😀


    • 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?

    • 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

    • 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!

    • 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.

  2. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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 have to acknowledge the Russians knew exactly where it was if they where close by when firing. Ship launched seems to be the way to go for a serious day one impact, sending Tornado’s up to fly within 100 miles of an enemy’s air defense to fire two missiles then run away is very high risk, expensive and has a smaller impact as you will be launching less missiles due to the limited air frames.
        I think the debate about future replacement of Storm Shadow and Tomahawk and the balance will be an interesting one as they can’t both be replaced by one missile.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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 boat is lay in waiting at a choke piont and hope the nuc boat comes close for an ambush shot.

    To suggest an astute or any peer western hunter killer needed protecting from being chased by a kilo is just laughable.

    • 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 launched from their frigate’s Sylver 70 silos (that’s what they fired from the frigates in the Syria strike) and it’s also already capable of being fired from a torpedo tube and is carried on French subs.

      I would love to know the full scope of the SS enhancements planned for SPEAR 4 and, if not already in there, would it be a big deal to qualify it for Astute launch and adapt/certify it for Mk41 launch (probably a bigger job than Astute qualification but to increase export potential possibly very interesting for MBDA to get done)? If that was done it would seem to offer a viable interim solution for T26 and Astute if/when Tomahawk stocks run out and before we get the SPEAR 5 deliverable into service.

      At one point the Spear 4 enhancement was going to include increased range, stealth improvements and 2-way data link for mid-course retargeting but the Think Defence writeup says (at the very end) that it is unclear if this is still the scope and it might be more of a minor refurbishment to keep SS going until its OSD. If there are concerns that Spear 5 might take too long coming and Tomahawk production stopped when our stocks run low then maybe giving Spear 4 the previously rumoured scope plus Mk41 integration, Astute qualification and Spear 4 might become a very attractive interim option to bridge a gap between Tomahawk and Spear 5.

      The one snag is that there is no plan to integrate SS with F-35B so I don’t know if that would automatically mean no Spear 4 integration or, since it is all part of the SPEAR program, MBDA might be able to design in some integration commonality between Spear 4 and 5 and MoD/MBDA be able to somehow shoehorn in Spear 4 integration under the guise of it being stage 1 of the already planned Spear 5 integration.

      Just some random thoughts from an industry follower rather than an expert. I would be interested in opinions from people who actually know about this stuff.

      • 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.

        • 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 airspace anyway so stealth, while always nice to have, is maybe not essential when launching a suitably long-ranged standoff weapon? Also, I assume Spear 5 will be designed to have a pretty high degree of stealth itself so part of the design process could include computer modelling to analyse and optimise the combined RCS of F-35B carrying external Spear 5 with design tweaks potentially made to Spear 5 shape and maybe even specially designed low RCS external pylon covers created all to minimise an F-35B+Spear5 RCS.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

  6. 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 by stealth and then attack with little or no warning and aircraft sat in a known position, being broadcast daily on all international news feeds being made ready for potential use (including pictures of aircraft at RAF Marham of Tornado aircraft, with covers on and not armed but close to a fence where they can be photographed).
    For the first time in quite a while HMG now has options, launch by sub or launch by air.
    Any military force, to achieve the aim, will use the lowest risk option to attack the chosen target, giving the mostly likely chance of success and present the lowest risk to the operator.
    This time that was deemed to be the aircraft sat on the tarmac at RAF Akrotiri and not the covert SSN that was now, potentially, being hunted in the eastern med.
    Those aircraft at Akrotiri will have enough ammunition to be able to, if required, attack again any targets requested.
    What is also in the area now is an SSN, doing its job – disrupting the enemies normal mode of operation and being hunted. It will only expose itself to launch its weapons, or if the tactical conditions are asked of it to tease the enemy into chasing it.
    Full spectrum operations, only a few nations can do it – your watching one of them do it now, quietly with little fanfare.
    The graphic artists at the newspapers now have something else to draw.

    • 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 mentioned a few minutes earlier when running down the assets used by each nation that the U.K. had used Tornados AND Typhoons.

      I put 2 and 2 together and assumed that U.K. Typhoons were deployed that night to protect our Tornados to and from the launch point. Might that be correct and it simply be a detail too small for the U.K. to report (or the U.K. journalists were not paying enough attention to spot the 2 + 2 detail) or did I manage to make it add up to 5 whereas in fact the general simply misspoke, maybe on the basis of an earlier plan from the RAF who subsequently decided a Typhoon escort wasn’t necessary, and there were no Typhoons involved?

      • 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.

        • 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.

  7. 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 sub.

  8. 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 was part of a similar approach and may have even let its presence be known for the purpose. If it had been needed, I suspect it could have easily evaded and lost its pursuers, got into position and fired whatever was required.

  9. 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.


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