How Trump unleashed awesome arsenal on Assad: Tomahawk missiles launched from US destroyers 150 miles away with pinpoint accuracy without endangering American pilots or enraging neighbouring allies
Donald Trump unleashed his Tomahawk barrage on one of al-Assad’s key bases from the sea to avoid upsetting allies and using the huge US military arsenal built up off the coast of Syria.
The US President last night fired 59 missiles at al-Shayrat military airfield near Homs overnight in retaliation for the Syrian leader’s horrific chemical weapons attack on Idlib.
They were launched from his state of the art destroyers USS Ross and USS Porter which can fire dozens of Tomahawks with pinpoint accuracy from up to 1,500 miles away from their targets.
The destroyers’ locations are always kept secret but they are believed to have been off the coast of Turkey or Cyprus, around 150 to 200 miles away from al-Shayrat – and fired 30 minutes after they warned the Russians to leave the base and surrounding area.
Syria’s armed forces were also warned about US military action hours before the strike, a military source told AFP.
The laser-guided Tomahawk is the US military’s most advanced missile carrying a 1,000lb bomb powerful enough to destroy most targets with enough accuracy to avoid hitting any Russians and sparking war between the two superpowers.
In response Moscow has already pledged to strengthen Assad’s air defences, will stop sharing intelligence with Washington and has diverted its main Black Sea fleet warship The Admiral Grigorovich to the Syrian port of Tartus. It is currently in the Bosphorus and will enter the Mediterranean later today.
Target: In the early hours of this morning the strikes were launched from two US destroyers in the Mediterranean and have killed at least five and destroyed at least nine Syrian jets, a fuel store and badly damaged the runway at al-Shayrat airbase
USS Ross: This is the moment one of America’s destroyers fired one of 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria from the Mediterranean
USS Porter: This destroyer is part of a US large fleet surrounding Syria and Iraq in the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Persian Gulf used to bombard Assad for the first time
Destruction: This is the remains of one of the hangars obliterated by US missiles fired from destroyers overnight
The one-ton missiles costing $800,000 each were chosen because:
It can be launched from the sea to avoid using an ally’s air base
Weapon map-reads its way to the enemy, hugging contours in the landscape, and using an on-board camera to pinpoint its target
Tomahawks cruise at low altitude and follow a complicated route to avoid being tracked by radar
Its accuracy is extraordinary, using a stored image of the target with the actual target before blowing it up
Tomahawks offered best chance of avoiding damaging anything Russian, or killing anyone Russians, which could spark a war
America has packed the Mediterranean with ships, submarines and aircraft with even more firepower in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea including the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier packed with jets currently battering ISIS targets.
But these ships can quickly be moved into the Med via Suez.
In the early hours of this morning the strikes were launched and have killed at least five and destroyed at least nine Syrian jets, a fuel store and badly damaged the runway at al-Shayrat.
The Syrian military said at least seven people were killed and nine wounded in the US strike. A Syrian opposition monitor put the death toll at four, including a general and three soldiers.
A convoy of Russian vehicles was seen leaving the airbase last night.
Russia’s foreign minister says no Russian servicemen have been hurt in a U.S. strike on a Syrian air base.
Sergey Lavrov, speaking on a trip to Uzbekistan, strongly condemned the U.S. strike saying it violates international law.
Russian state TV aired the footage showing the damage from the U.S. strikes at the Syrian air base.
It showed craters and pockmarks left by explosions and said that nine Syrian air force jets have been destroyed in the attack.
To protect pilots, Russia and the U.S. opened a so-called “deconfliction line” in late 2015.
On the US side, it is run out of the Combined Air and Space Operations Center at the vast al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which hosts the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command.
There, air traffic controllers and senior military officers are in contact with their Russian counterparts in Syria. They share coordinates and other data to avoid midair collisions or confrontations.
Mr Trump’s decision to fire missiles from the Mediterranean was a tactical one, to avoid upsetting allies including Turkey by using their bases to launch a bombing raid by fighter jet.
The US uses the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey but last night’s operation would have required President Erdogan’s consent and risked a row.
Similarly any airborne sortie from bases across the Middle East could cause similar diplomatic problems.
The United States has been fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria since 2014, so has amassed a huge military presence and an array of capabilities in the region.
If President Donald Trump decides to launch more strikes against Syrian regime targets, the Pentagon has many ways with which to do so.
Any strike against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is likely to be conducted remotely to avoid putting US pilots in harm’s way.
In September 2014, US ships launched 47 Tomahawk missiles during the first night of strikes against ISIS in Syria. These missiles can also be launched from attack submarines, but the location of these vessels is secret.
A barrage of Tomahawks could overwhelm any air defenses. Assad’s systems are weakened after six years of war but Russia has deployed state-of-the art systems to Syria.
Over in the Persian Gulf, the Navy’s Fifth Fleet can quickly respond to military requests in the region.
The USS George H. W. Bush aircraft carrier is also in the Gulf, currently supporting operations against IS.
The bulk of US efforts against ISIS in Syria has been conducted from the air, with about 7,500 coalition jet and drone strikes since 2014.
The United States has multiple air bases at its disposal in the region, including Incirlik in southeastern Turkey, just 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Syrian border.
Among the many air assets available to the United States are its high-tech F-22 Raptors, F-16s and even B-52 heavy bombers.
The F-22, which cost about $360million apiece, is considered the world’s most advanced fighter currently operating, thanks to its ability to evade radar.
It can fly faster than Mach 2 and launch laser-guided bombs from miles away.
The Air Force also has at its disposal a fleet of armed Reaper and Predator drones, which use Hellfire missiles to strike targets.
Weapon of choice: Donald Trump has fired 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria – the £1million one-ton missiles destroy targets with pinpoint accuracy
Target: The strikes hit the government-controlled Shayrat air base in central Syria, where U.S. officials say the Syrian military planes that dropped the chemicals had taken off
Russia has diverted its main Black Sea fleet warship The Admiral Grigorovich to the Syrian port of Tartus. It is currently in the Bosphorus (pictured) and will enter the Mediterranean later today
Tactics: The US has a huge airforce at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey – but would have needed the country’s permission to launch an attack on al-Assad’s Syria
The United States has about 900 troops in Syria — mainly special operations forces — to help train and advise an Arab-Kurdish alliance fighting IS.
A Marine artillery unit is helping local forces near Raqa and US forces have expanded a runway at a northern Syria air base to accommodate the huge C-17 military plane, which can bring in armored vehicles and equipment.
The US also has Apache gunships in neighboring Iraq to support local troops on the ground.
Meanwhile, Russian military chiefs have warned that its bases in Syria – Tartus and Hmeymim – are protected by ‘three layers’ of air defence.
Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Russia’s S-400, S-300 and Pantsir systems were deployed in the war-torn country and that crews manned them ‘around the clock’.
But the defense facilities also include the Bastion system which Russia claims is capable of hitting ‘naval and ground targets’ up to 280 miles away.
Tomahawk: US fires its most advanced missile that flies low, avoids radar then obliterates its targets
The Tomahawk is the US military’s most advanced missile, which map-reads its way to the enemy, hugging contours in the landscape and using an on-board camera to pinpoint its target.
First fired in anger during the Gulf War by the US, Tomahawks cruise at low altitude and follow a complicated route to avoid being tracked by radar.
The American-made missile can be fired from a submarine, ship or B-52 bombers and can carry nuclear or conventional warheads.
They blast off with the aid of a rocket, then switch to a small turbofan engine to cruise to their targets – hence the name.
The fan emits little heat, making it hard to be spotted by infrared detectors. During flight, the cruise missile compares its view of the landscape with a stored map reference to continually correct its course. It has a range of up to 1,500 miles.
The weapon is perfect for the Middle East because the terrain is very flat.
As the missile nears its target, another system kicks in which compares a stored image of the target with the actual target, which the military claims ensures a high level of accuracy.
At $800,000 each, the one-ton missiles do not come cheap.