President Donald Trump warned on Wednesday that US missiles were coming to strike Syria, despite Russia’s threats to shoot down incoming US missiles and even the platforms that fire them.
The US has struck Syria before, using cruise missiles from two US Navy guided-missile destroyers in the Mediterranean. But experts now say the US would have to go bigger to make an impact on Syria’s forces under Russian protection.
With no aircraft carriers currently in the region, a heavy Russian naval presence and advanced missile defences, and only 2,000 or so US troops on the ground in Syria, the US could seem outnumbered or outgunned.
In reality, the US has massive airpower in the region that far overpowers anything else nearby.
With the presence of the US Air Force in Qatar, Jordan, and Turkey, as well as forces on the ground, the US has a multitude of options for carrying out a strike in Syria.
Take a look at the US’s firepower in the region.
Here’s the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the aircraft carrier that just left the region. It has aircraft for logistics, air-to-air, air-to-ground, intelligence-and-surveillance, early-warning, and antisubmarine warfare. It’s one of 11 US aircraft carriers, and as it stands, it could make it back there within one week at full steam.
Here’s a loaded F/A-18E. This one has an air-to-ground heavy load out, but it still carries air-to-air missiles in case enemy aircraft attacks the US or US-backed forces, as was the case last year when an F/A-18E had to shoot down a Syrian Su-22.
The crew can launch one of these every two minutes or so. F/A-18Es off the US aircraft carriers can fly thousands of sorties, or missions, during a single deployment.
But US aircraft carriers don’t roll alone. Here’s one resupplying from the USNS Supply.
Cruisers like the USS Hue City keep watch and provide missile defence for the aircraft carriers. The US has two guided-missile destroyers in the Mediterranean, with others that can make it there on short notice.
Each cruiser contributes dozens of cruise missiles, which the US used on April 7, 2017, after intelligence showed that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces used chemical weapons on civilians.
While some Syrian forces are protected by Russian missile-defence systems, the US’s combined naval firepower could overwhelm them in a heartbeat.
Here, a gunner keeps watch on the USS Truxtun, another guided-missile destroyer keeping US aircraft carriers safe.
Moving on to air power: The US has tried-and-tested platforms like F-16s and A-10s at Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base …
… and heavy, nuclear-capable bombers at Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base.
Additionally, US ground forces in the region aren’t exactly toothless. With high-mobility artillery rockets and howitzers on the ground, the US can do a lot of damage.
It also has squadrons of fighter jets in Jordan.
Another tool exclusive to the US is stealth aircraft. An F-22 Raptor can operate in the most heavily defended airspace in the world or dogfight with Syrian or Russian jets.
And that’s not even counting the rest of the coalition — dozens of countries are contributing firepower and assistance to decimate the terrorist group ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
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