Macron’s fizzle: 12 French missiles launched at Syria, but several more fail to fire
France took part last Friday night in the US-led missile attack against Syria over an alleged chemical weapons attack in the town of Douma. The French contribution to the “punishment” of the Syrian government for what may have well been a fabrication, was relatively small: three naval versions of MBDA’s Storm Shadow/SCALP cruise missiles and nine airborne missiles of the same model, launched by five Rafale fighter jets. Apparently, not everything went as planned.
Both the French Navy and the Air Force had difficulties in delivering, according to French media. The country’s Navy had deployed, to the eastern Mediterranean, three Aquitaine-class multipurpose frigates armed with SCALP Naval missiles – the lead l’Aquitaine, l’Auvergne and Le Languedoc. Only the latter vessel fired a barrage of three missiles.
The French defense publication La Lettre A reported that the first salvo of three missiles failed to fire. The Le Languedoc then acted as a backup platform for the strike. According to the newspaper L’Opinion, the navy’s plan involved the firing of “more than three” missiles, but the third frigate missed a short window of opportunity and was ordered to abort launch.
The French Navy has confirmed the failure of the first salvo, saying the use of the backup ship was part of a normal contingency during naval operations. The April 14 launch of the SCALP Naval was the first combat use of the weapon system, and apparently it didn’t go as smooth as the Navy had hoped it would.
The French Air Force also had a glitch in executing their strike. Each of the five Rafale jets sent to attack Syria carried two SCALP missiles. Only nine were properly launched, while the tenth apparently malfunctioned and had to be dropped in a safe zone instead. The hiccup, which was first reported by the blog Le mamouth, was brushed aside by the French military as inconsequential. “All targets have been dealt with” by other missiles, it was explained, according to the magazine Le Point.
The less-than-perfect execution of the strike adds to the embarrassment of the Elysee Palace over the Syria adventure. President Emmanuel Macron already has faced criticism for ordering the strike without consent from the French Parliament and may be placed in an even more awkward position over his claim that his government has classified intelligence proving that the alleged chemical attack on April 7 had been launched by the Syrian government. Over the past days an increasing number of reports by journalists on the ground indicated that there was no use of chemical weapons in Douma on that day at all.
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