April 17, 2018

Attacks on Syria Provided Unsurpassed Missile Testing Opportunities

Rarely do air and sea forces get the opportunity to test multi-million dollar missile systems in actual "fire in anger" conditions. US, UK and French missile strikes on Syrian targets on April 14, 2018 intentionally deployed the widest range (5 or 6 types) of missiles possible from as many air and sea platforms possible. Only in real war conditions can a missile's efficiency, reliability and accuracy be fully tested. 

The US/UK Tomahawk missile has been thoroughly tested in battle by submarine and surface ship launch, but the attack on Syria probably provided the first real war opportunity to fire JASSM-ERStorm Shadow, French version SCALP and MdCN version missiles.    

Salim Kahraman for Turkey's Ahval News has provided excellent graphics and reporting on the April 14, 2018 US, UK and French missile strikes on Syrian targets

"World powers show off advanced weaponry in Syrian war"  Apr 17 2018, "...The United States, France and Britain last week launched 105 missiles on three on Syrian chemical weapons facilities without any aircraft entering Syrian air space or coming within range of its anti-air systems...The latest coalition strikes directly targeted Syrian government chemical weapon sites - a scientific research centre in the capital Damascus, a chemical weapons facility west of the city of Homs and a chemical weapons bunker near the same western city. Nine buildings were destroyed .

Barzah research centre was targeted by only U.S. forces with 57 Tomahawk missiles and 19 JASSM-ER missiles launched from a pair of Qatar-based B-1 bombers.
Graphics courtesy MBDA, MOD via Agency France Press (AFP).
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The Him Shinshar chemical weapons facility was hit by nine U.S. Tomahawks missiles, eight British Storm Shadow missiles, three MdCN missiles launched from French frigate Languedoc and two French SCALP missiles.
...The Him Shinshar chemical weapons bunker was struck by only French forces, with seven SCALP missiles.  
The strikes displayed U.S. naval superiority with Tomahawk missiles fired from the destroyers USS Monterey and the USS Laboon in the Red Sea, USS Higgins in the Gulf and submarine USS John Warner [see USNI article below] in the eastern Mediterranean. Meanwhile, the destroyer USS Donald Cook in the Mediterranean surprisingly did not fire any missiles.
UK, French and US air and sea missile firing platforms. Click here for much larger map. 
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U.S. officials said no missiles were intercepted.
...France participated in the strikes with five warships and at least 13 aircraft flying from air bases around France. Britain’s forces consisted of four aircraft flying from Cyprus. British submarines could not reach the area in time for the attacks.
The use of so many missiles to destroy just nine buildings was possibly more a show of strength than a necessary use of force.
The French strikes conducted were carried out with indigenous weaponry, aircraft and warships. It was the inaugural combat use of the McDN land attack missile, which is the naval variant of the air-launched SCALP land-attack cruise missile] and demonstrates that France has a deep strike capability alongside the United States, Russia and Britain." See the WHOLE AHVAL NEWS ARTICLE

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On USS John Warner Virginia class (SSN-785)  for USNI reportsApril 16, 2018:

"THE PENTAGON — Saturday’s pre-dawn joint air strike against three Syrian chemical weapons facilities was notable not just for its success, but for also being the first time a Virginia-class submarine fired missiles in combat and the first time Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) were used tactically, USNI News has learned.



USS John Warner provides (1 or 2?) photonic masts' eye view of the launch of one of its Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria.
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When attack boat USS John Warner (SSN-785) launched six Tomahawk land-attack missiles from the Eastern Mediterranean, it was the first time a Virginia-class submarine fired shots “in anger,” or at an enemy target rather than for testing or training purposes, according to a Navy spokesperson.

John Warner not only hit its assigned target but did so during its first deployment and while successfully evading a Russian sub-hunter, which was reportedly tracking a British Astute-class submarine also operating in the region, according to Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments." [see more reporting - scrolling a third way down - on other missiles fired].

Pete

8 comments:

Josh said...

@Pete:

I question the 'no missiles intercepted' claim. Not that I think Syrian AD could have been that effective, just that I don't see how the US would necessarily know one way or another. It certainly would be very surprising if 100+ missiles operated perfectly; more typically a least a couple crash in the process of getting to their targets when you have a raid of this size.

Cheers,
Josh

Anonymous said...

Money is flowing. China is fielding the improved 4000km MRBM DF-26C. Their Mach 10 hypersonic vehicle is being tested on the DF-26.
KQN

Peter Coates said...

Hi Josh

I suspect the "'no missiles intercepted' claim" might be assessed from the likelihood that the cruise missiles send uplink messages to satellite on their progress toward the targets. Then downlinks from satellite to US, UK, French ground station inform the US, UK and France as to the last piece of data from each missile. That data possibly ending with an indication the missile has not been INTERCEPTED but is about to hit the target.

Also satellites could be pre-cued onto the target points and therefore be capable of counting the missile hits through optical-infrared imagery.

And finally the the US may have just meant "'no [US] missiles intercepted' and while "'no missiles [were] intercepted' some cruise missiles may have malfunctioned and not hit their intended targets for other reasons, maybe even jamming?

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Thanks KQN

The https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DF-26 has been developed for some years and frequently is described, not as a "carrier killer", but as a "GUAM killer". With the DF-26 having the range to hit the naval and air bases on that island.

The new TEL erectors makes the DF-26s more hidable-survivable of course.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

Intercepting a cruise missile is pretty hard even with the most advanced ground based SAM systems. You have to deal with terrain masking and there are always holes in the SAM coverage that allow a cruise missile to go around or slip through. The attacker has the benefits he can choose the targets and the time to hit. No defender can afford to protect everything so he will always heavily defend his most vital targets and leave the rest to chance.
Even then, a cruise missile is likely only vulnerable in its terminal phase, where some variants do need to gain altitude to select and identify their targets. Still, a defender does not have a lot of time to react. Assuming it has to pop up within 10-20km, at best you only have 30-60 seconds. A stealth missile is going to cut that time down further. The intrinsic reaction time of an older SAM is in the 10-12 seconds already, newer systems cut that down to 5 seconds. And then you still have to add in the radar operator time lag plus the time it takes for the SAM to fly to its intercept point (there is probably not enough time if you are across town). Unless it is a heavily defended target, the probabilities of having in the right place at the right time a SAM system are low.
But on heavily defended objectives, a defender can afford to set up ultra dense AA boxes as a last ditch defense (these are jam proof by any means) whereupon any cruise missile will have to fly through. That will work against the subsonic kind but less so against a supersonic one (due to its momentum).
KQN

Anonymous said...

I read the MdcN had a slight hiccup. The 1st salvo to be fired from the FREMM malfunctioned. So a back up salvo was fired from the Aquitaine.
KQN

Peter Coates said...

Thanks KQN [at 18/4/18 3:47 PM]

A successful interception of a cruise missile against a Syrian target would probably require a S-400 SAM system manned by an experienced Russian crew [1] to have any chance of interception

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S-400_missile_system#Syria with distributed ground and ship mounted radar, satellite (and maybe high altitude drone) cueing support.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi again KQN [at 20/4/18 1:52 PM]

Yes https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languedoc_(fr%C3%A9gate)#Guerre_civile_syrienne supports your advice that French frigate Lanquedoc fired 3 MdcN cruise missiles - but no French admission of malfunction.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquitaine_(fr%C3%A9gate)#Guerre_civile_syrienne indeed supports your advice that French FREMM frigate Aquitaine (April 14, 2018) was involved in the cruise missiling of targets in Syria. And earlier in April 2018 Aquitaine was buzzed by a Russian plane.

Regards

Pete