Military Capabilities

Russia displays cruise missiles ‘shot down’ in Syria

26 April 2018
A composite of stills taken from the Russian MoD video of the 25 April briefing shows the remnants of Storm Shadow/SCALP missiles that were purportedly shot down by Syrian air defences on 14 April. Source: Russian Ministry of Defence

Key Points

  • The Russian MoD has provided different figures for the number of Western weapons intercepted in Syria on 14 April
  • The missile remnants it displayed could have come from missiles that hit their targets or failed in a previous attack

In a second attempt to cast doubt on the effectiveness of the Western allies’ strikes against Syrian targets on 14 April, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) appeared to contradict its earlier account of the event, but supported its claims by displaying the remnants of cruise missiles.

Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy, the head of the General Staff’s Operational Directorate, told a briefing in Moscow on 25 April that the Russian assessment of the strikes showed that only 22 missiles hit their targets.

This was a lower figure than implied by MoD spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov in a 16 April briefing, during which he said that 71 of the 103 weapons launched by the allies had been shot down by Syrian air defences.

Col Gen Rudskoy said the Syrians shot down 66 missiles, but said an unspecified number appeared to have suffered technical malfunctions. He said these included two Tomahawks and an air-launched cruise missile that were subsequently transferred to Moscow.

The US military has stated that all 105 missiles that were launched hit their targets.

Unlike Maj Gen Konashenkov, who said most of the weapons were launched against airbases, Col Gen Rudskoy confirmed that all three sites identified by the US military as the targets were hit and did not explicitly claim the allies attempted to attack the Syrian air force.

However, he added that Russian analysis of the damage caused at the three sites showed they were not hit with as many weapons as claimed by the allies. As an example he said that the 76 missiles that the US military said hit the Barzah Scientific Studies and Research Centre in Damascus would have carried at least 8.5 tonnes of explosives, but a commensurate level of damage was not seen at the site.

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