By now the entire world is aware that a joint air and missile strike by the United States, France, and the United Kingdom occurred on three separate suspected chemical weapons facilities on the outskirts of the Syrian capital of Damascus as well as the city of Homs on April 13th 2018.
The joint strike was in response to the suspected use of chemical weapons dropped from Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Army controlled helicopters into the rebel controlled city of Douma in the Eastern Ghouta region which has seen a massive uptick in fighting as the Russian-backed Syrian Arab Army offensive, Operation Damascus Steel has been attempting to smash through and regain ground within the rebel controlled southern region.
It was reported that at least 70 men, women, and children were killed in what medical staff and first responders described as a mixture of chlorine and sarin nerve gas symptoms. Scores more sought medical treatment for difficulty breathing, convulsions, and loss of bodily function.
Shortly after reports came flooding in of the suspected chemical attacks, The U.S. State Department spokesperson, Heather Nauert, released a press statement saying that the State Department was quite disturbed with the alleged chemical attack in Douma and added that the Assad regime must held accountable if such an attack occurred.
Then Mrs. Nauert began taking Russia to task for the suspected chemical attack perpetrated by its ally Syria, “Russia, with its unwavering support for the regime, ultimately bears responsibility for these brutal attacks, targeting of countless civilians, and the suffocation of Syria’s most vulnerable communities with chemical weapons. By shielding its ally Syria, Russia has breached its commitments to the United Nations as a framework guarantor. It has betrayed the Chemical Weapons Convention and UN Security Council Resolution 2118.”
The press release ended with the demand that Russia, “end this unmitigated support immediately and work with the international community to prevent further, barbaric chemical weapons attacks.” And soon after this press release talks of another U.S. airstrike similar to the one the newly minted Trump administration conducted on a very empty airfield following a chemical attack in the Khan Seikhoun region which killed 100 Syrians on April 4th 2017.
Russia, obviously upset about being fingered as the prime enabler to yet another Assad regime chemical attack fired back with its own hard-line stance and declared that if any U.S. cruise missiles were fired into Syria, Russia themselves would shoot them down and target the launch sites and/or aircraft that fired them.
Upon hearing this on the early morning news talk show, Fox and Friends, U.S. president Donald Trump once again took to twitter and telegraphed yet another potential U.S. military action with this tweet;
“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
Most took to the idea of the “nice and new and “smart!” braggadocios part of the statement, in which Trump is becoming so well known for on twitter, as meaning the battle-tested Tomahawk cruise missiles which Trump launched 59 of these in 2017 to hit the empty Syrian Shayrat Airbase in response to the chemical attack at Khan Siekhoun.
However, what he actually was referring to was the new Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles Extended Range, or the JASSM-ER.
The JASSM-ER, which is produced by Lockheed Martin for the U.S. Air Force, is truly the tip of the spear in defense technology. Lockheed Martin describes the AGM-158B JASSM-ER as its latest offering to meet the needs of the U.S. warfighter. This near stealth weapon system was built to withstand electronic counter-measures as well as early warning radar and anti-aircraft weapon systems that are fielded today, namely the Russian S-400 Truimf anti-aircraft surface-to-air missile system that are widely prevalent throughout the Assad regime controlled regions of Syria.
But this isn’t your average “bunker-buster” cruise missile designed to be used against jihadists hiding in caves, these are designed for hard targets such as “high-value, well-fortified, fixed and relocatable targets.” Which in essence means established military targets like lets say Russian armored columns on a blitzkrieg invasion of NATO allies in Eastern Europe or even North Korean command and control bunker complexes and mobile nuclear launch sites. All without being detected or jammed by adversarial electronic counter-measures.
And the “ER”, or extended range variant means the JASSM can be fired well outside of enemy airspace. Which is what we saw in the Syrian airstrike on April 13th. Where the B1-B Lancer heavy bombers of the 28th Bomb Wing of the Air Force Global Strike Command stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. Took off from the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, flew into Saudi Arabian airspace and launched 19 JASSM-ER’s into Syria hitting the Barzah Research and Development Center just outside of Damascus.
All without entering Syrian airspace.
The JASSM-ER’s performed amazingly and decimated its intended targets, yet make no mistake. These missiles and the other technologically advance defense weapons in research and development now are designed for one thing and one thing only, the new Cold War arms race that is heating up between the U.S. and its NATO allies and Russia and their allies such as China, Iran, and North Korea.
And if Trump has anything to say about it, the Cold War 2.0 will only get “bigger, better, and stronger… believe me, it will be YUGE! And we will win!”
Featured Image courtesy of: Lockheed Martin
(The Fusion Cell reached out to the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Air Force Long Range Systems Range Division, and the 28th Bomb Wing. All declined to comment.)