Ellsworth Airmen With The 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron Respond To Use Of Chemical Weapons By Assad in Douma, Syria

By Jim Garamore

WASHINGTON -The Syrian regime killed at least 45 people and sickened hundreds of others in a chemical weapons attack on Douma, Syria, April 7, and on April 13, U.S., British and French service members launched attacks that severely degraded the Syrian chemical arsenal and sent a message to Syrian leader Bashir Assad to stop using chemical weapons against his own people.

A civilian and a Marine stand behind lecterns and take questions from reporters.
Chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., director of the Joint Staff, discuss operations in Syria during a news briefing at the Pentagon, April 14, 2018. DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

Chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the Joint Staff director, briefed the press today from the Pentagon on the operation saying it was successful and that there were no allied casualties.

White said the attack on innocent civilians in Douma “demanded a response,” and the allies targeted the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons infrastructure. “We launched these strikes to limit Syria’s ability to use chemical weapons in the future,” she said.

Operation Carefully Planned

The operation was carefully orchestrated and methodically planned to lessen chances of civilian casualties, the spokesperson said. The missiles hit targets during the Syrian pre-dawn hours, and planners, weaponeers and aircrew were careful to ensure little collateral damage. “We successfully hit every target,” White said.

Missiles hit three distinct military chemical weapons targets. “The three facilities are – or more appropriately, were – the fundamental components of the regime’s chemical weapons warfare infrastructure,” McKenzie said.

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VIDEO | 00:15 | Pentagon Spokesperson Denounces Use of Chemical Weapons

One target, the Barzah center, housed the regime’s research, development and production center for chemical and biological weapons. Photos taken after the strike show that where once three buildings stood, there is now nothing but rubble.

Strikes also hit a chemical weapons storage facility and a chemical bunker facility. “We selected these targets carefully to minimize the risk to innocent civilians,” the general said.

“We are still conducting a more detailed damage assessment, but initial indications are that we accomplished our military objectives without material interference. I would use three words to describe the operation: Precise, overwhelming and effective,” he said.

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VIDEO | 00:38 | White Says Airstrikes Support Values of the American People

Allies Fired 105 Weapons

The allies fired 105 weapons at these targets. The missiles came from British, French and American platforms in the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean, McKenzie said.

“All weapons hit their targets close to the designated time on target,” he said. The American ships were: the USS Monterrey, the USS Laboon, the USS Higgins and the submarine USS John Warner. Two B-1 Lancer bombers launched joint air-to-surface stand-off missiles. Support aircraft – tankers, fighters, electronic warfare aircraft and more – also participated. B-1B Lancers deployed to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, employed 19 Joint Air to Surface Standoff Munitions as part of the strikes against Syrian chemical weapons facilities, making this the first-ever operational use of  the JASSM-Extended Range munition.  The B-1Bs are from the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, are deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.

” We’re very proud of the 28th Bomb Wing Airmen From Ellsworth AFB who flew this mission,” said Col. John Edwards, 28th Bomb Wing Commander. ” They trained hard, were ready and lethal in executing this operation.”
A 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1B Lancer aircraft assigned to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing prepares to depart from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, in support of the multinational response to Syria’s chemical weapons use. The B-1B was used as part of a strike on Syria as part of the U.S. response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons. The B-1B employed 19 Joint Air to Surface Standoff Munitions against Syrian chemical weapons targets, marking the first operational use of the JASSM-ER. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)
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VIDEO | 00:31 | Joint Staff Director Describes Mission Success

“None of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by Syrian air defenses,” McKenzie said. “We have no indication that Russian air defenses were employed.”

Syrian response was ineffectual as the Syrians launched surface-to-air missiles on a ballistic trajectory. “Most of the launches occurred after our strike was over,” the general said. “When you shoot iron into the air without guidance, it has to come down somewhere.”

Since the strike, U.S. officials have not seen any military response from actors within Syria. “We remain postured to protect our forces and those of the coalition should anything occur,” the general said.

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