How the Pentagon wages war even when it says it is broke

Allied weaponry lights up the sky over Damascus. — ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO

April 13, 2018, 8:09 p.m. (Damascus Time) Damascus Radio: Explosions are being heard around Damascus. We also have good information that fighter aircraft are involved, launching air-launched cruise missiles from over the Eastern Mediterranean with the help of tanker support. French SCALP-EG, the UK’s Storm Shadow, and the American JASSM are likely to have been used, as well as Tomahawk cruise missiles from U.S. and U.K. submarines, as well as from U.S. Navy destroyers. Those fighters may also be providing air cover for American and allied ships in the region.

April 13, United States, 0800: A reporter learned the U.S. Air Force has fired Lockheed Martin’s AGM-158B Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) missile in combat for the first time. Nineteen missiles were launched from two B-1B Lancer bombers at Syrian chemical weapons research and storage facilities. An additional 57 Tomahawk missiles arrived from U.S. Navy ships, a French frigate and a US submarine, as well as advanced standoff Storm Shadow and SCALP cruise missiles delivered from British and French warplanes.

The U.S. attack on Syria last week was launched even without the benefit of the staggering $1.3 trillion Omnibus Spending Act. The new budget authorizes 14 new ships, including an advanced nuclear carrier — the Navy’s 12th — that alone cost more than $13 billion. The United States has more naval airpower than the rest of the world combined. The Air Force is buying 56 F-35As; the Army gets 17 Apache and 11 Airbus-built Lakota helicopters; the Marine Corps wins 24 vertical landing F-35Bs; and the Coast Guard gets a long-needed icebreaker.

If that doesn’t sound like a lot of airplanes and ships, one Air Force F-35A costs $148 million. A Marine Corps F-35B costs $251 million, and the Navy F-35C costs $337 million apiece. None of the armaments will be in the Pentagon pipeline for a minimum of two years.

The massive purchases are part of providing the most bloated military force in the world with a $716 billion funding fix at the same time a bipartisan caucus of senators is trying to trim $125 billion of waste from Pentagon bureaucracies. The Defense Department claimed the money is desperately needed to prop up a military force that Commander in Thief Lyin’ Don Trump claims is running on bald tires and fumes.

With those numbers in mind, consider what our ostensibly broken military managed to accomplish on the spur of the moment when the hyper-aggressive Joint Chiefs of Staff mounted a three-pronged aerial assault on a country the size of Florida less than two weeks after Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad gassed his own people.

At least 43 civilians in a rebel-controlled suburb of Damascus suffocated in a mustard and chlorine gas attack delivered in canisters dropped from a hovering Syrian helicopter on April 3. The  Syrians claim “more than 40 innocent civilians” were killed in the joint American, British and French response.

This is how the attack went down:

  • “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!” Trump the Military Genius  tweeted on April 11.
  • The $1.4 million per unit JASSM-ER “stealth” cruise missile Trump telegraphed was coming arrived two days later. It was a great time to show its capabilities to potential buyers like Japan. Already the JASSM has been purchased by Australia, Finland, and Poland.
  • On April 14, Russian news sources in Syria began claiming that Russian and Syrian air defenses managed to down either 71 or all of the 105 cruise missiles launched during the Friday night operation. Regardless of  the hyperbole, several substantial buildings identified as poison gas development facilities were reduced to rubble, according to U.S. sources.
  • Pentagon spokesperson Dana White later reported that the strike “successfully hit every target.” U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., director of the Joint Staff, seconded the report with pictures of destroyed targets. “We are confident that all of our missiles reached their targets,” he said.

The U.S. also released the following details on weapons employed in the strike, representing a tiny fraction of American forward-deployable weapons systems:

From the Red Sea
  • USS Monterey (Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser) — 30 Tomahawk cruise missiles. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Defense purchased 149 Tomahawk Block IV missiles for $202.3 million.
  • USS Laboon (Arleigh Burke-class destroyer) — 7 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
From the Arabian Gulf
  • USS Higgins (Arleigh Burke-class destroyer) — 23 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
From the Mediterranean
  • USS John Warner (Virginia class submarine) — 6 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
  • French frigate Aquitaine — 3 missiles (naval version of SCALP missiles).
From the air
  • 2 B-1 Lancer bombers — 19 joint air-to-surface standoff missiles.
  • British forces used a combination of Tornado and Typhoon jets to deliver eight £790,000 Storm Shadow missiles.
  • France flew a combination of Rafale and Mirage attack jets and fired  nine equally expensive SCALP missiles.

Aviation experts who studied the attack said the modernized standoff weapons like new JASSM-ER (Extended Range), the UK’s Storm Shadow and French SCALP-EG cruise missiles were highly effective. It is likely that the aging Tomahawks engaged lightly defended targets while new versions of SCALP and JASSM-ER missiles struck more heavily defended targets.

Trump said in his announcement that the strikes were targeting only the Syrian government’s chemical weapons capabilities. He said the air campaign would continue as long as needed, a position he is now waffling on.

“The combined American, British and French response to these atrocities will integrate all instruments of our national power: military, economic and diplomatic,” Trump said in his often maudlin address. “We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.”

Trump also made a direct appeal to Russia to join the United States and its allies in pressuring Assad to abandon the use of chemical weapons.

The Pentagon said the airspace was “deconflicted” of Russians via their hotline before the attack, but announced at almost the same time that the Allies did not warn Russia, which would be amusing if it wasn’t such a serious breach of trust.

Despite what his boss is claiming, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis repeated several times that no additional attacks are planned, a pronouncement that conflicts greatly with Trump’s bombastic bloviation.

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