As Syria strike looms, American firepower amplified in Mediterranean

Matt Saintsing
April 10, 2018 - 11:59 am

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford/U.S. Navy

As the Trump administration weighs another potential strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces following a new suspected chemical attack, the U.S. Navy is beefing up its presence in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The U.S. already has one guided-missile destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, in the eastern Mediterranean, where it may be positioning to take part in a strike on Syria. And according to the Wall Street Journal, a second, the USS porter could arrive there in the coming days.

On Monday, President Donald Trump condemned the "heinous attack" in Syria and said he would make a decision on a possible U.S. strike in the coming days. Meanwhile, Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations said the "U.S. will respond to a deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria regardless of whether the United Nations Security Council acts or not." 

The two most likely U.S. weapons systems with the capability to strike Syria are Tomahawk missiles and stealth aircraft. Tomahawk missiles have a range of about 1,600 kilometers, which is just shy of 1,000 miles, and can be fired from submarines and other U.S. warships. In 2011, during the U.S.-led military intervention in Libya, more than 110 Tomahawks missiles rained down on various strategic targets, mostly from allied warships in the mediterranean and dozens from stealth B-2 bombers. 

Like the strike last April, Tomahawks minimize the risk of manned U.S. aircraft to fly in the heavily contested and congested Syrian airspace. 

However, with only the Cook being in the region, it could take several days for other ships to be in position. When the U.S. struck Syria last year, two arleigh-burke class guided missile destroyers were involved. 

Another signal the U.S. is mulling a potential strike is beaming directly from the White House. On Tuesday. it was announced that Trump will not attend the Summit of the Americas in Peru, as originally planned, to, in part, oversee America's response to the suspected and deadly chemical attack in Syria.

 But the clearest sign yet that Trump will strike Syria came yesterday when he told reporters "We have a lot of options and we'll be letting you know very soon...probably after the fact." 

On Monday, the Navy announced the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group and its nearly 6,500 sailors will depart Norfolk, Va. Wednesday, for a scheduled deployment to the Middle East and Meditteranean. Included in the group are three other arleigh-burke guided missile destroyers, the Bulkeley, Forrest and Sherman, as well as one guided-missile cruiser, the USS Normandy.