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Western Missile Attack on Damascus Fails as Syrian Air Defences Intercept Strikes Without Russian Assistance

April 14th - 2018

In the early morning of April 14th the United States, Britain and France launched a joint missile attack on the Syrian capital of Damascus and a number of military and government sites across the country. The Western powers claimed this was in retaliation for a Syrian chemical weapons attack against Islamist militant controlled territories which had caused significant civilian casualties, with the three self appointed 'world policemen' taking it upon themselves to punish Damascus for its actions. While the three countries had the support of the vast majority of the Western bloc, as well as their Middle Eastern allies, they had failed to prove their allegations that a chemical attack had taken place, and carried out the attack without a United Nations mandate or the support of the international community.

The three Western powers launched 103 cruise missiles from air and naval and air assets over the Red and Mediterranean Seas, all aimed at what they claimed were chemical weapons research facilities in Damascus and Homs, as well as a number of military sites and airfields. French Rafale fighters and the French Navy's frigate Aquitane, Britain’s Tornado GR4 attack jets and U.S. B-1B bombers, F-15 and F-16 fourth generation fighters and a number of warships were all used to deploy a number of missiles from the U.S. Navy’s Tomahawks to France’s SCALP air launched cruise missiles. Had Syrian air defences truly been obsolete as Western analysts long claimed, these weapons would have caused serious damage to a number of key facilities across the country and seriously set back the country's war effort. Instead however, of 103 missiles launched, 71 were successfully intercepted by Syria’s surface to air missile (SAM) network. All 12 missiles launched at the strategically critical Dumeir military airfield near Damascus were intercepted. While Syria lacks state of the art SAM systems such as the S-300, HQ-9 or KN-06, its armed forces have obtained extensive foreign assistance in upgrading older systems including the S-200 and S-125 and the shorter ranged KUB and BUK systems. North Korea, which operates these systems in large numbers alongside its more modern platforms such as the KN-06 and S-300, has provided Damascus with extensive assistance in upgrading these systems to modern standards - capable of engaging modern aircraft and missiles effectively. Russia’s armed forces have also reportedly provided Syria with assistance in upgrading its surface to air missile batteries, and in light of the Western bloc’s attack Moscow has indicated that it is considering providing the country with the more modern S-300 to upgrade its capabilities.

Ultimately the Western bloc’s attack on Syria failed to achieve any meaningful military objectives, and whether they were intended to to begin with remains doubtful given their extremely limited duration. Syria’s ability to intercept the vast majority of missiles fired on its capital and military facilities does however send a strong message to Washington, London and Paris - both that Damascus is capable of openly defying the Western bloc and, perhaps more importantly, that the West lacks outright superiority in its military technologies even against dated Soviet era weapons systems. While U.S. President Donald Trump had warned of newer and smarter missiles being deployed against Damascus, the missile strike was overwhelmingly a failure. This has significant implications worldwide, and with far more sophisticated weapons systems such as the S-400 today proliferating widely from the South China Sea to the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, the Western bloc’s freedom to intervene militarily across the world is increasingly restricted.

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