Military Capabilities

Western allies target Syrian assets

16 April 2018
Airbus Defence and Space imagery showing a suspected Syrian chemical weapons research centre in Barzeh, one of the targets of coalition airstrikes. The lack of damage elsewhere within the larger complex highlights the precision strike munitions employed. Source: © CNES 2018, Distribution Airbus DS / © 2018 IHS Markit

Key Points

  • The US, UK, and France launched 105 missiles at three sites on 14 April to degrade the Syrian military’s ability to develop and employ chemical weapons
  • Prior to the attack, Syrian and probable Iranian assets relocated to Russian-controlled areas for protection

The United States, supported by France and the United Kingdom, struck three targets they said were associated with the Syrian chemical weapons (CW) programme at around 0400 local time on 14 April. A total of 105 missiles were launched from airborne and naval platforms in an attack prompted by the Syrian military’s alleged use of CW against civilians on 7 April.A slide released by the US Department of Defense shows before and after images of the Barzeh target. (US Department of Defense)A slide released by the US Department of Defense shows before and after images of the Barzeh target. (US Department of Defense)

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said the operation was limited in scope, only targeting facilities assessed to be involved in the Syrian CW programme. “We confined it to the chemical weapons-type targets, we were not out to expand this,” he said.

The targets included the suspected research and development centre in Barzeh on the northern outskirts of Damascus.

Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, director of the US Joint Staff, said in a 14 April press briefing that the site was targeted by 57 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired by US Navy surface and sub-surface vessels and 19 AGM-158B AGM-158B Joint Air-to-Surface Missiles-Extended Range (JASSM-ERs) fired by USAF B-1B strategic bombers.

Airbus Defence and Space imagery captured on 14 April 2018 indicates that various structures within the Barzeh complex were destroyed. The lack of damage to surrounding structures illustrates the high precision of the weapons employed.

Two additional targets were hit west of Homs city. The target that was identified by Lt Gen McKenzie as the Him Shinshar Chemical Weapons Storage Site was constructed on the grounds of a former S-75 surface-to-air missile (SAM) position and assessed by allied intelligence to contain sarin and precursor production equipment.

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