US-UK-France strike Syrian chemical weapon facilities

United States along with allies France and United Kingdom launched air strikes against the Syrian government’s chemical weapon arsenal in retaliation for the use of such weapons on civilians, on early Saturday morning, Syrian time.

Two SCALP-EG cruise missile armed Rafale (on outer pylons)
The strike was launched as a response to the chemical weapon attack on 7 April in Douma which killed up to 75 people, including young children; a significant body of information, including intelligence, indicated that the Syrian regime was responsible for this latest attack.

US and allies launched a total 105 cruise missiles to strike different targets related to the Chemical weapon production, storage and research.

US missiles primarily targeted the Barzah research center in Damascus, a development and production center for chemical and biological weapons.

USAF B-1B Lancer preparing for the mission
76 missiles were fired at the Barzah research facility, including 57 Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles (TLAM) from three US Navy guided missile ships and a submarine in the Mediterranean, and 19 JASSM-ER stealthy ground attack cruise missiles air launched by 2 US Air Force B-1B strategic heavy bombers.

Nine Tomahawk's were fired at the chemical weapons storage facility in Homs.

The B-1B Lancers from the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron were from the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. The strike marked combat debut for the Lockheed Martin''s JASSM-ER cruise missile.

Multiple USAF F-15C and F-16C fighters were deployed to provide air defense cover to the bombers and warships.

The French air strike group consisted five Dassault Rafale fighter jets armed with the two each MBDA SCALP-EG (MBDA Storm Shadow) air launched ground attack cruise missiles escorted by five Dassault Mirage 2000-5 fighters.

The strike fleet took off from Saint Dizier air base in France and were supported by two E-3F airborne early warning and control AWACS planes and six C-135FR tankers.

The French Navy FREMM Frigates fired three Missile de Croisière Naval land attack cruise missiles (ship launched version of SCALP-EG).

A total of 12 cruise missiles including the 9 SCALP-EG and 3 MdCN were fired by the French assets.

While two SCALP-EG and three MdCN targeted the Homs storage facility, seven SCALP-EG targeted a bunker complex in the second storage facility target.

The UK element of the carefully coordinated joint action was contributed by four Royal Air Force Tornado GR4s based at RAF Akrotiri airbase in Cyprus.

The Tornados, flown by 31 Squadron the Goldstars, were supported by a RAF Voyager tanker aircraft.

RAF Tornado GR4 being prepared for the strike mission at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

GR4s launched 8 Storm Shadow missiles at the storage facility – a former missile base – some fifteen miles west of Homs, where the regime was assessed to keep chemical weapon precursors stockpiled in breach of Syria’s obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

UK Defense ministry said careful scientific analysis was applied to determine where best to target the Storm Shadows to maximise the destruction of the stockpiled chemicals and to minimise any risks of contamination to the surrounding area.

The facility which was struck is located some distance from any known concentrations of civilian habitation, reducing yet further any such risk.

British Tornado fleet were reportedly escorted by Eurofighter Typhoons.

Syrian Air Defense reportedly shot down several of these subsonic cruise missiles employing its S-200, Pantsir-S1/2, Buk-M2E, S-125/S-1252M, SA-8, SA-2 air defense systems.

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.