France, UK and US hit Syrian chemical infrastructure

All national and international media report the strikes of the coalition formed by the United States, France and the United Kingdom against the chemical infrastructures of the Syrian regimeidentified. Thus, around a hundred Tomahawk, MdCN, JASSM and SCALP EG/Storm Shadow cruise missiles were launched by the coalition forces between 3 and 4 a.m., Paris time.

The United States will have deployed 3 Aegis A/Burke destroyers in the area which launched nearly 80% of the missiles fired, while the British used Tornadoes equipped with Storm Shadow missiles, the British name for SCALP EG/ Finally, France will have carried out a mixed assault, combining an air raid of more than 4500 km of 5 Rafale equipped with SCALP EG missiles, and escorted by 4 mirage2000-5, an Awacs and an in-flight refueling network (50 refuelings in total), and a naval device of 5 frigates (3 FREMM, 1 FASM and 1 FAA), which will have fired 3 MdCN cruise missiles.

Russia has announced that no civilian or military losses have been reported. As for the Syrian regime, it announces having shot down 80% of cruise missiles, Russia announcing "more than 50% of the missiles shot down" by the Syrian Anti-Air Defense, the Western missiles having not penetrated into "the areas covered by Russian anti-aircraft defense,” according to its press release.

These strikes will give rise to numerous analyses. In it, we will study the French strikes and their consequences. 

  1. The Air Force Raid

The Raid led by the Air Force is, in many respects, exceptional. It is in fact a raid of more than 10.000 km round trip carried out by 9 fighter planes, supported by 5 tanker planes and an Awacs. 

The system put in place by the Air Force is also interesting, the 5 Rafale equipped with 2 SCALP EG each having been escorted by 4 mirange-2000 5, aircraft specialized in air combat. The presence of the 2000-5 demonstrates that Paris did not exclude Syrian or Russian air opposition. THE Rafale are multi-role devices, they therefore have the capacity to simultaneously carry air-air defense missiles, today MICA missiles with infrared guidance for close combat, and MICA missiles with electromagnetic guidance, for long engagement distance. They therefore have the possibility of defending themselves. The presence of the Mirage 2000-5 in this context may seem unnecessary. However, the present commitment did not allow the Rafale to use their air-to-air missiles to intercept potential aggressors from a safe distance, and continue their mission. A Syrian or Russian opposition could therefore have approached near the Rafale, and engage them at close range. In this case, the Rafale would have had to drop their loads to have the agility necessary for aerial combat, even “simulated”, leading to the failure of the mission.

The role of the Mirages 2000-5, a fighter plane that was both very fast and very maneuverable, was therefore, most likely, to engage potential opposition beyond the engagement range of the Rafale, allowing them to continue the mission, even in the event of air interference.

In fact, the aerial device set up by the Air Force was capable of responding to multiple scenarios, adding to the exceptional nature of this raid.

  • The National Navy system

Deprived of its only aircraft carrier, in IPER until the fall, the French Navy was handicapped in meeting presidential expectations. She was able, however, in a very short time, and in a relatively discreet manner, to bring a flotilla of 5 frigates off the Syrian coast, composed of 3 new FREMM heavy frigates, equipped with MdCN naval cruise missiles, a frigate anti-submarine warfare Type 70, and a Type 70 anti-aircraft defense frigate. The FREMM will have launched 3 MdCN on Syria, the first operational use of the new French missile.

We can therefore ask ourselves why such a flotilla only fires 3 missiles, with a single FREMM carrying (theoretically) 16?

As with the Air Force, the French naval system was capable of handling multiple scenarios, including a possible Syrian or Russian response, but also of maintaining a strike capacity beyond the initial raid.

We can see that the French flotilla has significant anti-submarine power, but Syria does not have operational submarines, unlike the Russian Navy, which had deployed 2 Advanced Kilo submarines in the eastern Mediterranean. , submarines which had left the port of Tartous 2 days ago. It is also likely that other Russian submarines are roaming this area. The significant ASW capacity deployed by the French flotilla was therefore not superfluous. It is more than likely that a nuclear attack submarine discreetly escorted the flotilla.

Likewise, an anti-aircraft frigate escorts the French Navy flotilla. If this frigate does not have particularly powerful anti-aircraft strike capabilities, the SM1-MR missiles which equip it dating from the 80s, it does however have excellent detection and aerial surveillance capabilities, in particular to detect possible anti-ship missiles, allowing other frigates to deploy, if necessary, decoys, jamming and anti-missile missiles to protect themselves.

As we can see, the French systems of the Air Force and the National Navy will have been carefully designed, and the hypothesis of the response, whether Russian or Syrian, will have been taken into account. This demonstrates that despite the indisputable negotiations which took place with Moscow, which made it possible to avoid a dangerous escalation, the Russian position will only have been known once the strikes had been carried out. It is also for this reason that the French air bases in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates were not used, the Russian response on these bases having “less” consequence than a possible strike on French ships or bases.

It will now be a matter of analyzing Russian retaliatory measures, which will necessarily take place, but which can take many forms, ranging from semantics to cyber attacks (military response seems to be excluded today). It will also be very useful to know the real number of missiles shot down by the Syrian DCA, and in particular by the Russian-made Pantsir systems, the only Syrian systems likely to have been able to effectively intercept cruise missiles. The score of this system, present in small numbers in Syria, could influence the strike tactics of France and NATO, but also change Western doctrine in terms of short-range defense systems.

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