British submarines move into missile range of Syria | Daily News

British submarines move into missile range of Syria

  A Trafalgar class submarine and a Wildcat HMA2.
A Trafalgar class submarine and a Wildcat HMA2.

UK: British Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered British submarines in the Mediterranean to move within missile range of Syria in readiness for strikes against the Assad regime by the end of this week.

Whitehall sources said Britain was "doing everything necessary" to be able to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles from nuclear-powered submarines against military targets in Syria.

One source said that "if any action is going to happen, it is going to happen before Monday".

As of Wednesday night, May had not come to a final decision on whether Britain would join the US and France in any air strikes, but the Prime Minister wants to be able to act swiftly if and when she decides to join any offensive.

The Royal Navy has three Astute-class submarines that could be heading towards Syria - HMS Ambush, HMS Artful and HMS Astute. Their Tomahawk IVs have a range of 1600 km, meaning the subs would need to lie off the coast of Syria, Lebanon or Israel while awaiting the order to strike. Each submarine can carry 38 missiles.

We are moving subs in, we are doing everything necessary operationally to do that. If any action is going to happen it is going to happen before Monday because once you start having a debate about it, it will be very difficult for No 10 to do anything," a Whitehall source said.

May is understood to have resolved that any decision to join allied air strikes would have to be taken by the Cabinet rather than by Parliament, as delaying action will give Syria the chance to move its military assets near to Russian hardware, making it harder for the US or UK to get a clean strike.

There was already evidence on Wednesday of Syria trying to move its aircraft out of range. Opposition groups said the Syrian regime was shifting military vehicles away from its airbase in Hama, a potential target for American cruise missiles.

Activists also said Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group supporting the Assad regime, was clearing its own positions near the T4 airbase in central Syria. Israeli jets reportedly struck the T4 base on Sunday night, killing 14 people, including seven Iranians in an attack first reported by Syrian state media as having been carried out by the US.

Michael Horowitz, a senior analyst at the Le Beck geopolitical consultancy, said that the regime would probably move its most sensitive equipment close to Russian forces, in the hope that the US would be less likely to risk accidentally striking Russian troops.

European air traffic controllers on Wednesday issued a "rapid alert" for airlines in the eastern Mediterranean over the possibility of air strikes into Syria within the next 72 hours. The European Aviation Security Agency, which receives intelligence reports from classified sources, warned of possible launches of air-to-ground strikes or cruise missiles in the area.

The US does not have an aircraft carrier in the area yet, meaning strikes would have to be launched from the USS Donald Cook or the USS Porter, two US Navy destroyers already in the Mediterranean.

The Donald Cook departed Larnaca, Cyprus, on Monday after completing a scheduled port visit.



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