Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Syrian airports - most likely first cruise missile targets

The idea for the surgical strikes was set out by Chris Harmer, an analyst at the US Institute for the Study of War, who argued it was possible to keep an attack against the Assad regime short and sharp and cost-efficient, while avoiding significant risk to US servicemen.
Since those were precisely the factors that had paralysed the US as the Syrian crisis has unfolded during the past 30 months, it has been eagerly seized on.
Senator John McCain, a critic of President Barack Obama's apparent inaction in Syria, said Mr Harmer's analysis "confirms what I and many others have long argued - that it is militarily feasible for the US and our friends and allies to significantly degrade Assad's air power at relatively low cost, low risk to our personnel, and in very short order".
The study indicates the Syrian Air Force regularly conducts three missions which give it a strategic advantage over rebel forces: it brings weapons and other supplies from Iran and Russia, it resupplies army units fighting the rebels, and it has been involved in the bombing of rebel-held districts.

"An initial strike would require just three US navy surface combatant vessels and 24 total US navy and USAF aircraft," Mr Harmer said.
"A limited strike resulting in the degradation of Syrian Air Force infrastructure could be accomplished with no US military personnel entering Syrian air space or territory, at relatively small cost."
Six of Syria's 27 airbases would be primary targets: Damascus International (which also takes civilian traffic), Damascus Mezzeh military base, al-Qusayr, Bassel al-Assad International, Dumayr and Tiyas. The plan would be to damage runways, fuel storage plants, maintenance hangars and control towers and radars.
Cruise missiles were not designed for all-out destruction, he said, but could crater runways, thus putting them out of action. It would also hinder Russian cargo aircraft trying to land with weapons or ammunition, and Iranian transporters bringing in fighters.
A typical initial sortie, Mr Harmer calculated, would entail eight cruise missiles fired from each of three naval vessels, backed up by 24 strike fighters.
Mr Harmer was nervous yesterday that his analysis was being talked up by military planners who are anxious to give an Allied strike a modest flavour.
"Tactical action in the absence of strategic objectives is usually pointless and often counter-productive," he told the US foreign policy blog The Cable.

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