Tomahawk Launches Practiced by U.S. Before Trump Gave Go-Ahead
April 7, 2017, 6:21 PM EDT
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017.
Source: Seaman Ford Williams/ U.S. Navy
Sailing in the eastern Mediterranean, a pair of U.S. destroyers twice rehearsed firing a fusillade of million-dollar missiles toward a Syrian airbase before President Donald Trump signed the order to launch.
Three hours after the president’s “execute order” on Thursday, the USS Ross and USS Porter fired 59 Tomahawk missiles built by Raytheon Co. The destroyers were in the Eastern Mediterranean but under supervision of the commander aboard the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.
And an hour after that, the missiles hit their targets almost simultaneously, destroying about 20 Syrian aircraft in hangars and on runways as well as petroleum storage at a base that the U.S. says President Bashar al-Assad’s regime had used to launch a deadly chemical attack against civilians on April 4.
The U.S. used the latest-model Tactical Tomahawks, which can be redirected in mid-flight, transmit images to commanders and loiter over a potential target area, according to accounts by U.S. military officials who briefed reporters or spoke in interviews. They asked not to be identified discussing operational details.
“This operation is a reminder that forward-deployed U.S. Navy ships, operating from international waters, have various ways of affecting events ashore, including Tomahawk cruise missiles” that can be fired “without putting additional boots on the ground or risking pilot lives,” Ronald O’Rourke, a military naval analyst with the Congressional Research Service, said in an email.