Early on April 14, the US, the UK and France delivered a massive missile strike on Syria. The attack was publicly justified with accusations that the Syrian government had allegedly been behind the so-called Douma chemical attack on April 7. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis described the strikes as “harder” than the 2017 strikes on Shayrat military airfield.
The Pentagon said that the US and its allies had launched 105 missiles at the alleged “chemical weapons” facilities of the Assad government and all of them had precisely hit their targets.
The attack involved the following means and launchers:
- The USS Monterey CG61 fired 30 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Red Sea.
- The USS Laboon DDG58 fired 7 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Red Sea.
- The USS Higgins DDG76 fired 23 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Persian Gulf.
- The USS John Warner SSN785 fired 6 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Mediterranean.
- The French frigate LANGUEDOC fired 3 Storm Shadow/SCALP EG cruise missiles from the Mediterranean.
- B-1B strategic bombers fired 19 AGM-158 JASSM air-launched cruise missiles.
- British Typhoon and Tornado fighter jets fired 8 Storm Shadow/SCALP EG air-launched cruise missiles.
- French Rafel and Mirage fired 9 Storm Shadow/SCALP EG air-launched cruise missiles.
According to the Pentagon 76 missiles hit “Barzah Research and Development Center”, 22 missiles hit “Him Shinshar Chemical Weapons Storage Site”, 7 missiles hit “Him Shinshar CW Bunker”.
However, during the official briefing the Pentagon declined to provide any evidence confirming the allegations against the Assad government and offered no explanation as to why there was no dispersal of chemical agent clouds if the chemical weapons facilities had been hit.
Another issue raised by experts is why 76 missiles were needed to destroy three buildings in Barzeh.
There is another side to the story. According to the Syrian Defense Ministry, most of the missiles launched by the US-led bloc were intercepted. The Russian Defense Ministry provided more details by saying that Russia had not employed its air defense assets, but 71 missiles heading to 8 locations had been intercepted by the Syrian Air Defense Forces (SADF).
The Russians added that Moscow will also consider deliveries of S-300 air defense systems to Syria and other countries in response to the US actions.
However, the numbers provided by Russia raise serious questions. Some experts contacted by SouthFront said that even theoretically the SADF could not have been capable of shooting down more than 15-20% of the launched missiles. The SADF just does not have the means and measures necessary to intercept such a number of missiles simultaneously in one wave of strikes.
The experts suggested that the Russian military had possibly used its state-of-the-art electronic warfare systems to counter the launched missiles during the final phase of their flight path.
Another factor, which “highly likely” contributed to the effectiveness of the Syrian counter-measures, is that Russia had provided the Syrian military with operational data from its technical reconnaissance net, including satellites and other surveillance means. Likely, Iran had done a similar thing.
Using tracking data, Russian-made air defense systems like S-125, S-200, Buk and Kvadrat are capable of shooting down cruise missiles with a relatively high efficiency.
The 71 intercepted missiles of 103 launched are a decisive failure for the US and its allies. Some experts suggested that the 76 missiles strike on Barzeh announced by the Pentagon could be an attempt to explain where all the missiles had gone.
If the data provided by the Russian Defense Ministry is confirmed, this will be the first time in the history when that a side was able to repel a massive strike of so-called modern high-precision weapons/missiles. If so, in the case of a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia, the Russians will be able to intercept most of the US means of attack while suffering only minor damage, whereas Russia’s nuclear strike would be a crushing blow.