JASSM-ER makes combat debut against Syrian chemical weapons facilities

US, French and British aircraft fired several cruise missiles at chemical weapons research and production facilities in Syria on 13 April, resulting in the combat debut of the Lockheed Martin AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended-Range.

Taking off from a base in Qatar, two Boeing B-1B Lancer bombers fired 19 JASSM-ER weapons, a stealthy cruise missile which boasts a range of greater than 500mi. The extended-range version of JASSM was introduced into service with the US Air Force in 2014 and hadn’t been used in combat before. The missiles were likely launched outside of Syrian airspace. The B-1B Lancer has a payload of 75,000lb (34,000kg) and can carry 24 cruise missiles.

The majority of the 105 cruise missiles launched in the attack were Raytheon BGM-109 Tomahawk land-attack missiles fired from two US Navy cruisers, one destroyer and a nuclear submarine. Those naval vessels were based in the Red Sea, the Northern Arabian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean.

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B-1B Launching JASSM: Image Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

The US, France and UK allege that the Syrian regime carried out a chemical attack on 7 April on civilians in Douma, a suburb of Damascus, killing around 70 people. The allied attack on Syrian chemical weapons research and production facilities was billed by the Pentagon as retribution, as well as an effort to limit the future production and use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.

The UK’s Royal Air Force flew four Panavia Tornado aircraft from a base in Cyprus, which launched eight stealthy MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missiles. Four Eurofighter Typhoons were flown alongside in support. The French Air Force flew Dassault Rafale and Mirage aircraft, reportedly from a base in France, and launched nine SCALP missiles – the French name for the Storm Shadow.

All the US cruise missiles hit their intended targets, said the Pentagon. No US aircraft or missiles were hit by Syrian air defenses, and there was no indication that Russian air-defence systems were employed. The Pentagon estimated that more than 40 surface-to-air missiles were launched by the Syrian regime, many fired blindly into the air and most after the last impact of US cruise missiles.