US Tomahawk strike on Syria as effective as dropping missiles from air balloons – Russia’s MoD
“The figures voiced by the Pentagon about the supposedly high efficiency of a massive missile strike at the Shayrat airbase were made for the American public, and not for professionals,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.
Last Friday, the US launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Mediterranean Sea at the Shayrat Airbase controlled by the Syrian government. The strike was ordered by US President Donald Trump as an alleged retaliatory response to the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack that occurred on April 4.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, only 23 of the 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from US Navy destroyers made it to their targets. Such a low-efficiency rate, however, did not stop US Defense Secretary James Mattis to proclaim the US mission a success.
“The assessment of the Department of Defense is that the strike resulted in the damage or destruction of fuel and ammunition sites, air defense capabilities, and 20 percent of Syria’s operational aircraft,” Mattis said Monday.
“The Syrian government has lost the ability to refuel or rearm aircraft at Shayrat airfield and at this point, use of the runway is of idle military interest,” the Pentagon chief added.
Commenting on Mattis' assessment, the Russian Defense ministry questioned the precision of American strikes and its cost effectiveness.
Volleys of cruise missiles make good TV pictures, but according to the Defense Ministry, it makes little sense to launch all these pin-point strike tools at a relatively small target area of just one air field. Konashenkov noted that given the fact that all targets were located in close proximity to each other, the US could have been just as cost-effective dropping these expensive Tomahawk missiles from air balloons.
“Therefore, if 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were not launched from hundreds of miles away, but instead dropped on Shayrat in one pile from air balloons, the effectiveness of such a 'strike' would be equal in cost (over $100mn) and strike accuracy,” the general said.
While Russia has also been using cruise missiles in Syria, according to the Defense Ministry, all of them were launched on separate well-disguised targets spread across a much wider area of the war theater – and in direct support of anti-terror missions on the ground.
But in the case of the Pentagon’s operation – especially given that some terrorists used it as a chance to launch a counter-offensive – the general noted that the only “logical explanation” for the strike was a “strategy” to weaken the combat potential of the Syrian army.
“However, there are no noticeable results here either,” Konashenkov said, adding that the Syrian army continues active operations against Islamic State and al-Nusra terrorists.
The majority of victims of the US strike were civilians who live in a village near the airfield, according to the governor of Homs, Talal al-Barazi, who said a total of 14 people including nine innocent civilians were killed in the missile attack.
Meanwhile, the air base was virtually undamaged and resumed operations, according to another eyewitness who said, “the station, the airport, and the airbase restored their operations on the same day.”