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Ash Shairat / Shayrat Air Base

On 06 April 2017, the United States launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Syrian military airfield in Ash Shairat in the province of Homs from which the reported chemical attack in Idlib province on 05 April 2017 had allegedly been carried out.

A delegation of officers and generals from the Syrian army arrived 07 April 2017 at the Ash Sha'irat military airfield to evaluate the damage caused by the missile attack carried out by the United States. The delegation, which consisted of some 40 officers and generals who were accompanied by guards, examined the destroyed military ammunition and equipment warehouses. Some aircraft and munitions had been salvaged, including five Syrian fighter jets. The runway also seemed to have been spared, as well as a few hangars. However, eight other hanger had to be taken out of service.

The missiles hit nine hangars, one of which was completely destroyed while others were only partially damaged. The strikes caused the most extensive damage on the ammunition warehouses, with one of the missiles wiping out the fuel materials storage. The primary runway remained mostly intact, but several of the smaller runways which led to the hangars were damaged by debris.

The US strike on a Syrian air base 07 April 2017 destroyed a fifth of President Bashar al-Assad's working warplanes, Pentagon chief James Mattis said 10 April 2017. "The assessment of the Department of Defense is that the strike resulted in the damage or destruction of fuel and ammunition sites, air defense capabilities, and 20 percent of Syria's operational aircraft," Mattis said in a statement. "The Syrian government has lost the ability to refuel or re-arm aircraft at Shayrat airfield and at this point, use of the runway is of idle military interest," he added. The US military's Central Command spokesman Colonel John Thomas said the US strike at Shayrat airfield near Homs in central Syria had destroyed more than 20 Syrian jets.

Homs Governor Talal Barazi said that the airbase had suffered insignificant damage after the overnight attack. According to Barazi, the attack left five servicemen and two civilians dead. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, two Syrian servicemen had gone missing and four have been killed.

Syrian television reported that flames continued to engulf the airfield following the attack. "All aircraft located there have been damaged, you can say it is completely destroyed," the staffer said.

Prior to the beginning of the Syrian conflict, the country had an extensive network of military air bases, counting up to two dozens. With the outbreak of the civil war some of those bases were captured by militants and Islamists, with many becoming partially inoperable due to constant bombardment during hostilities. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had been fighting against Daesh in northern Syria to establish control over Al Tabqa military base. While in the east, the Syrian army was combating for the control over the Deir ez-Zor base.

Considering a small number of un-destroyed military bases, Ash Sha'irat airfield and Hmeymim air base had been playing a significant role in counterterrorism operations. Ash Sha'irat, located in central Syria, had been used during all the six years of the civil war. Apart from helicopters, a number of warehouses with ammunition were located there. Russian air forces, deployed at Hmeymim, also reportedly used Ash Sha'irat as a staging base on the way to Palmyra.

In 2015, Russia expanded the runways to accommodate Russian aircraft. The forces of the 50th Air Brigade, in particular the 677th and 685th squadrons of the Su-22M3/M4 fighter bombers and the 675th squadron of the MiG-23ML/MLD fighter jets, were based there. Some of the MiG-23s had not moved for many years and obviously were in a state of incapacity. Taking into account losses for previous years, probably, there could be about one and a half dozen of the combat-ready Su-22s at the airbase at the moment of the missile strike. As for the MiG-23ML/MLD, it seems that the most part of the combat-ready aircraft had been redeployed to Hama in recent years, though, there should still have been several more flightworthy fighter jets of this model on the Ash Shairat airbase.

In February of 2016, the Russian military doubled the number of attack helicopters stationed at Shayrat. Jane's reported 24 February 2016 that there were four Russian Mi-35 helicopters, four Mi-24s, and one Mi-8/17. This was in addition to the previous deployment of four Mi-24s in November of 2015. In addition to Air Force assets, Russia's 120th Artillery Brigade with six 152 mm 2A65 Msta-B towed howitzers was deployed at a Syrian Arab Army base to the south of the airbase.

There are reports that the Russians also allowed Iranian Air Force squadrons to utilize the facilities.

A senior US military official told reporters that some 20 Syrian waplanes had been destroyed by the US cruise missiles launched on the airbase. All US cruise missiles reached their targets at the Syrian airfield, the official said. Earlier in the day, the Russian Defense Ministry said that only 23 Tomahawk missiles reached the Ash Shairat airbase, however, the Pentagon has already denied the information.

Shayrat Air Base
Click on the small image to view a larger version

Overview of the Sayqal Air Base, 22 April 1987

Close up of the Sayqal Air Base, 22 April 1987

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Page last modified: 11-04-2017 18:35:34 ZULU