The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Stout (DDG 55), which sailed from Naval Station Norfolk on Aug 18, will join the USS Barry (DDG-52), USS Ramage (DDG-61), USS Mahan (DDG-72) and USS Gravely (DDG-107) in the Sixth Fleet OPAREA, poised for cruise missile strikes against Syria.
Fifth U.S. Destroyer Moves Closer to Syria
The U.S. Navy is moving a fifth Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer closer to Syria, according to information from the U.S. Navy to USNI News.
USS Stout (DDG-55) departed from Naval Station Norfolk, Va. on Aug. 18 on a regular deployment and will join four other destroyers in the region.
USS Mahan (DDG-72) was slated to leave the region and be replaced by USS Ramage (DDG-61) for a ballistic missile defense (BMD) patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility. Now both ships, along with USS Barry (DDG-52) and USS Gravely (DDG-107) will remain in the region.
All five destroyers are capable of intercepting ballistic missiles as well as launching land attack missiles.
In addition to the DDGs there are likely a unknown submarines capable of firing Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM). Press reports have indicated at least one U.K. Royal Navy submarine in the region. U.S. Navy Los Angeles-class (SSN-688) and Virginia-class (SSN-744) are capable of firing TLAMS.
It is also unknown is any of the service’s guided missile submarines (SSGN) are in the region. The SSGNs are capable of fielding 154 TLAMs.
The U.S. preliminary assessment of an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack holds the regime of Bashar al-Assad responsible for the deaths of 1,429 people.
“The United States says it has ‘intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons personnel … were preparing chemical weapons munitions prior to’ what Washington believes was a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21,” according to a Friday repot from CNN.
“ ‘In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack,’ the U.S. government said in its assessment released Friday.”
The Royal Navy is ready to launch cruise missile strikes on Syria.
OSINT indicates at least one Trafalgar class submarine operating in the Mediterranean, passing Gibraltar last week.
Navy ready to launch first strike on Syria
Britain is planning to join forces with America and launch military action against Syria within days in response to the gas attack believed to have been carried out by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against his own people.
Royal Navy vessels are being readied to take part in a possible series of cruise missile strikes, alongside the United States, as military commanders finalise a list of potential targets.
Government sources said talks between the Prime Minister and international leaders, including Barack Obama, would continue, but that any military action that was agreed could begin within the next week.
As the preparations gathered pace, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, warned that the world could not stand by and allow the Assad regime to use chemical weapons against the Syrian people “with impunity”.
Britain, the US and their allies must show Mr Assad that to perpetrate such an atrocity “is to cross a line and that the world will respond when that line is crossed”, he said.
British forces now look likely to be drawn into an intervention in the Syrian crisis after months of deliberation and international disagreement over how to respond to the bloody two-year civil war.
The possibility of such intervention will provoke demands for Parliament to be recalled this week.
The escalation comes as a direct response to what the Government is convinced was a gas attack perpetrated by Syrian forces on a civilian district of Damascus last Wednesday.
The Assad regime has been under mounting pressure to allow United Nations inspectors on to the site to establish who was to blame for the atrocity. One international agency said it had counted at least 355 people dead and 3,600 injured following the attack, while reports suggested the true death toll could be as high as 1,300.
Syrian state media accused rebel forces of using chemical agents, saying some government soldiers had suffocated as a result during fighting.
After days of delay, the Syrian government finally offered yesterday to allow a team of UN inspectors access to the area. However, Mr Hague suggested that this offer of access four days after the attack had come too late.
“We cannot in the 21st century allow the idea that chemical weapons can be used with impunity, that people can be killed in this way and that there are no consequences for it,” he said.
The Foreign Secretary said all the evidence “points in one direction”, to the use of illegal chemical agents by Assad regime forces.
A Government source added that even if UN inspectors visited the site of the attack, “we would need convincing by the UN team that this was not the regime’s attack because we believe everything points to the fact that it was”.
Officials said the Assad regime has continued bombarding the area in the days since the attack, making it likely that any evidence which could establish who was responsible will have been destroyed.
Mr Cameron interrupted his holiday in Cornwall for talks with Mr Obama, François Hollande, the French president, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. After discussions via a secure telephone line over the weekend, all the leaders agreed on the need for a “serious response”. Government sources confirmed that military action was among the options “on the table” but said no decisions had been taken.
The Prime Minister, however, is believed to have abandoned hope of securing any further meaningful response from the UN amid opposition from Russia.
Labour said Parliament must be recalled if Mr Cameron was considering a military response, but Downing Street sources said this may not be necessary as the Prime Minister retained the right to act urgently if required.
Mr Cameron will face criticism for any British military involvement from many MPs, who believe the Armed Forces are already overstretched and must not be committed to another distant conflict.
Any retaliatory attack would be likely to be launched from the sea as the Syrian air force is judged to be strong enough to shoot down enemy jets.
A Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarine is said to be in the region while a number of warships recently left Britain for exercises in the Mediterranean.
Commanders may also need to make use of the RAF base at Akrotiri, Cyprus for air support.
If military action is approved, the first wave of missiles could start within a week.
Military sources suggested the early hours of the 2011 campaign against Col Muammar Gaddafi could form a template for any operation. The Libya campaign began with a blitz of Tomahawk cruise missiles from US warships and from a British Trafalgar Class submarine.
The Royal Navy declined to comment on the current positions of its submarines, but they regularly pass through the area on their way to the Suez Canal.
America’s Sixth Fleet currently has four guided missile destroyers in the area, each of which could join the attack.
The Royal Navy also has its rapid response task force in the Mediterranean. The group includes two frigates and the helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious.
Navy sources said there were no plans to change the exercises, but the group provided “strategic contingency” if needed.
The Tomahawk IV – known in the Royal Navy as TLAM (Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missile) – allows submarines to strike at ground targets hundreds of miles inland with pinpoint accuracy.
The missile has been in use with the Submarine Service since the late 1990s and has been used in anger in the Kosovo conflict and, more recently, in the campaigns against the Taleban and Saddam Hussein, chiefly against important targets which otherwise might seem relatively invulnerable. It is fired from a boat’s torpedo tubes. Once it reaches the surface, a booster rocket ignites to propel the missile skywards. Tomahawk then heads for its target at around 550mph, delivering a 1,000lb explosive warhead.
Tomahawk IV is the latest version of the missile. It has a longer range than its predecessors (well in excess of 1,000 miles), can be directed at a new target in mid-flight, and can also beam back images of the battlefield to its mother submarine.
It is fitted to all Trafalgar and Astute-class submarines.