One key part of the airfield wasn’t hit: the two runways. According to a video purportedly taken outside Shayrat on Friday, jets were already taking off from the airstrip the day after the attack.
Partly, that was a calculation about the intended message to the Assad regime — one of deterrence, not escalation — but it was more about the actual physical effects.
“Really, the munitions that we were using, it would have been a waste of a munition,” the official said.
Each Tomahawk missile costs about $1.5 million. And the damage caused by the 1,000-pound warhead could be repaired within a few days, a defense official told Buzzfeed News.
So instead, the U.S. targeted all the other aspects of the airfield that make it functional: the aircraft and their hardened shelters, the missile defense system, and fueling stations.
The venerable Tomahawk cruise missile, used in conflicts big and small since 1991, took center stage once again in an April 7 strike that rained some five dozen of the weapons upon a Syrian airfield believed to have launched a chemical attack. But its end is in sight, if not exactly imminent.
The U.S. Navy, which currently has some 4,000 Tomahawks, plans to stop buying the venerable weapon in the next few years. Service leaders haven’t fully articulated their plans to replace it, but they have started talking about the need for a “Next Generation Land Attack Weapon” slated to enter service more than a decade hence.
In 2014, then-Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley (now the Navy’s acting secretary) told the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee that the next-generation weapon could be an upgraded Tomahawk or a different weapon.
“[W]e are moving forward with development of what has been referred to as next-generation land-attack weapon,” Stackley said. “And the key elements of that weapon will be its increased lethality, survivability beyond what Tomahawk brings today.”
More recently, in October, the Navy asked defense firms to provide information about technologies they are working on that could be used in these future weapons.
Syrian fighter aircraft used the just-struck al-Shayrat airfield on Friday to launch attacks against regime opponents, less than 24 hours after the United States tossed dozens of missiles at the base with the hopes of sending a “message” to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad about its use of chemical weapons.
The immediate Syrian defiance highlighted the pinprick nature of the U.S. reprisal, which the Trump administration — and plenty of lawmakers from both parties — cheered as a seemingly tough response to Syria’s repeated use of banned weapons to cow a rebellious populace. Some 80 people died in the sarin gas attack Tuesday, which was carried out by the Syrian regime, according to U.S. officials.
Looming over the broadly-cheered strikes on Friday was the apparent lack of any overarching strategy to lever Assad out of power or facilitate a political solution to the six-year old Syrian civil war. Key allies, most of the State Department, and Congress were all kept in the dark regarding the missile launch, which Trump announced to Chinese President Xi Jinping as the two dined Thursday at Trump’s Florida resort.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday said the aim of the operation, involving 59 Tomahawk missiles fired from two U.S. naval ships in the eastern Mediterranean, was to render the airbase “inoperable.” He called the strike, which targeted the airfield and support structures nearby, an “overwhelming success.”
Edited by amor de cosmos, 08 April 2017 - 07:26 AM.