UK, US and France military planners are drawing up potential targets for missile strikes on Syria amid growing certainty that the Assad regime was behind chemical weapons attacks which killed hundreds of civilians last week.
While there has been no decision on the type of action, military staff in London and Washington are compiling a list of targets among a range of "and/or" options:
- Arming the rebels
- Creating a safe haven
- Establishment of a no-fly zone
- Surgical cruise missile strikes against chemical weapons facilities (Sea-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles are the most likely option)
Below are details of U.S., French and British forces in the region that could be involved in case of any attack.
- The U.S. Navy has increased its number of cruise missile-carrying destroyers in the Mediterranean to four from three by delaying the return to the United States of the Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS Mahan.
- The aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman, by far the most powerful warship in the region, left the Mediterranean last weekend, passing through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea.
- As well as the strike aircraft carried by the Truman, several of her escort ships are also capable of firing Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles.
- The United States has also had F-16 jets in Jordan, where they remained after a major military exercise this year at the request of the Jordanian government.
- Also has a major air base at Incirlik in Turkey that could easily house multiple aircraft as part of a wider military campaign.
- Britain would likely be dependent on its cruise missile-carrying Trafalgar and Astute class attack submarines if it wished to join in any U.S.-led campaign.
- Britain does not currently have any combat aircraft in the region, although they could theoretically operate from UK sovereign bases in Cyprus providing the local government agreed.