US combat ships USS Donald Cook and USS Porter arrived on the Syrian coast precisely a year after the US missile strike against the Shayrat air base. Sputnik columnist Andrei Kots looks at what the attacking group can do that has just come so close to the Arab country.
As in April 2017, the pretext for sending the US naval contingent was unconfirmed media reports of alleged use of chemical weapons by Damascus, this time in the Eastern Ghouta region. The US press already lists the shipment of the destroyers with the promise of Donald Trump to decide in the next 48 hours how to punish the “Assad regime”.
4th generation destroyers USS Donald Cook and USS Porter carry a total of 120 Tomahawk cruise missiles with a maximum range of over 2,000 kilometres. In this way, American ships are able to reach the entire territory of the country.
However, so far it is unclear where they will be able to fire if Trump chooses the use of force scenario. Specialist at the New American Security Center, Nicholas Geras, writes in Foreign Policy that there will be several targets. According to him, last year’s missile attacks did not yield the desired fruit as Syrian army planes took off again several hours after the attack.
It is worth remembering that this time the destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles. According to the Ministry of Defense of Russia, only 23 of them reached their target.
That, Kots points out, was a really poor result as the missiles, which cost about $ 2 million each, eliminated only six obsolete MiG-23 fighters, a material warehouse, a training building, a canteen and a radar station. Neither the landing strip nor the taxiways were affected, which allowed the aerodrome to be recovered in a very short time.
“In order to cause considerable damage to Bashar Assad and send a sufficient signal, in Trump’s view, the US will have to attack more targets,” Geras summed up. “In this way, the combat capabilities of the Syrian army would be undermined,” he said.
Recall that in 2011 the US and British only 124 Tomahawk missiles were enough to practically destroy the entire anti-aircraft defence system of Libya. However, at the time its overwhelming majority consisted only of obsolete systems of Soviet production, so it would be fair to predict that such successes will not be replicated in Syria.
Even now, after 7 years of civil war, the country’s anti-aircraft systems remain among the strongest in the region. The Syrian army is equipped with hundreds of systems, including the modern Buk-M2, Pantsir-S1 and S-125 Pechora-2M. The fact that more than half of the Tomahawks did not reach Shayrat’s base is evidence of this.
Arithmetic of missiles
So far it is still unclear how far the US is willing to go if it decides to attack Syria. It is evident that 120 Tomahawk missiles will not be sufficient to significantly undermine the Syrian army’s combat capabilities and incapacitate it to carry out large-scale military operations.
Nowadays, in the Mediterranean, there is no US Navy naval strike group, while the nearest cluster of landing troops is in the Persian Gulf. Thus, there are simply no resources to rapidly reinforce the US military presence near the Syrian coast.
However, Kots points out, the Mediterranean region is often visited by the US nuclear submarine equipped with USS Florida cruise missiles, which participated in the Libyan operation. This, in turn, port 154 Tomahawk, beating the destroyers USS Donald Cook and USS Porter together.
That is, the total number of American cruise missiles installed near Syria can reach up to 274 units. Just to compare: in 1991, the Americans needed only 288 Tomahawk to paralyze air defence and military command systems in Iraq.
The missile attack can also be supported by North American based aviation. In the air, the Americans have more maneuverability than at sea. Its largest bases are located in northern Syria, that is, in the territories controlled by Kurds. In addition, the US Air Force is actively using the Incirlik base in Turkey, which may also enhance the potential of its eventual campaign.
Source: Sputnik News