FEATURE | Naval role in strikes on Syrian chemical warfare facilities

Photo: US Navy
Photo: US Navy – Monterey fired Tomahawks

Most of the media coverage of the recent missile strikes on Syrian chemical warfare has been focused on the firing of JASSM, Scalp and Storm Shadow land attack missiles by US, French and British warplanes.

As is so often the case, though, the naval contribution to military action has been underreported.

Subsequent official US reporting confirmed, however, that a total of 103 land attack missiles were fired, with nearly 70 per cent being launched from naval platforms as follows:

  • Ticonderoga cruiser, Monterey, positioned in the Red Sea: 30 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
  • Arleigh Burke destroyer, Laboon, positioned in the Red Sea: seven Tomahawks.
  • Arleigh Burke destroyer Higgins, operating in the North Arabian Sea: 23 Tomahawks.
  • Virginia-class, nuclear-powered attack submarine, John Warner, positioned in the Mediterranean Sea: six Tomahawks
  • French multi-mission frigate Aquitaine: three Missiles de Croisière Naval from the Mediterranean

At least one Tomahawk-equipped British nuclear powered attack submarine was reportedly positioned to take part in the strikes, but did not in the event fire any missiles.

Duncan provided air defence. Photo: UK MOD

Further naval input was provided by the British Type 45 air defence destroyer Duncan, equipped with surface-to-air missiles, operating off Cyprus to provide protection for allied warplanes from possible attack by Russian interceptor aircraft and missiles.

Syria-based Russian warships, including the frigates Admiral Essen and Admiral Grigorovich, and a pair of Kilo diesel electric attack submarines, reportedly moved out of harm’s way some days before the attacks commenced.


Trevor Hollingsbee

Maritime security expert and columnist, Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police, Assistant Secretary for Security in the British Hong Kong Government Security Branch, and Intelligence Analyst in the UK Ministry of Defence. As an independent defence and security analyst he has had some 1,500 articles on maritime security, and geopolitical topics, published in a range of international journals and newspapers. He is an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute, and a past Vice-Chairman of the Institute’s Hong Kong branch.