It is very annoying to realize that pretty much the only two countries with the ability to use military force in Syria are Turkey and the United States. Which means the United States, since a meaningful Turkish intervention means an old-school invasion.
So what can the United States do in response to the alleged chemical strikes?
I don’t suppose that anyone doubts that an air campaign against Syria would be a massive undertaking. Still, Brian Haggerty of MIT has done the heavy lifting in documenting exactly what it would take. And it would take a lot. More than anybody but the Unites States could handle.
First, he documented a minimum of 448 targets that would need to be surpressed in order to achieve air supremacy:
|Air Superiority Campaign Targets||141|
|IADS C2 facilities, early warning radar sites||22|
|SAM batteries (SA-2, SA-3, SA-5, SA-6)||150|
|Airfields (4 targets x 8 bases)||32|
He calculates that the campaign would require at least 191 aircraft. (A more likely number is 300.)
He goes on to ask how many aircraft would be needed to protect a safe zone in Syria. Of course, that depends on the size of the Syrian ground forces that need to be protected against. The more Syrian targets, the more aircraft. And thus, this table:
|Emerging Targets||Strike Aircraft Airborne||No. of Sorties||No. of Aircraft|
“Emerging targets” are the number of Syrian targets (troop concentrations, artillery units, etcetera) that could mobilize during any given four-hour period. (If one unit could emerge more than once during that period, then it would count as multiple targets.)
In case this is too abstract, Haggerty broke it down:
If a typical Syrian armored division were divided up into battalion-sized elements with some mix of tanks, armored fighting vehicles, artillery and rocket launchers typically used in the Army’s assaults on Syrian cities and towns, these notional elements might include something on the order of 15 tanks, 9 armored fighting vehicles, 2 self-propelled artillery pieces and 1 rocket launcher (for a total of 27 targets). A small number of towed artillery pieces would also be added to this mix. The aircraft requirements based on engaging up to 64 emerging targets calculated above would thus reflect the potential need to engage roughly two of these battalion-sized elements during any four-hour period (30 tanks, 18 armored fighting vehicles, 4 self-propelled artillery pieces, 2 rocket launchers, and some towed artillery). The Syrian Army has somewhere in excess of 200 of these battalion-sized elements at its command.
Oh boy. That is a lot of aircraft.
And it gets worse, because a whole plethora of UAVs, EW aircraft, and tankers would be needed to support the effort.
France used to be able to engage in full-spectrum operations. Oh, France. Spend a little more! Bring back the draft! Whatever you have to do. Just take the burden off us, willya?
Actually, to Alex Harrowell and Doug Muir and others ... is there any prospect of any other nation (or coherent non-U.S. alliance) having these capabilities in the next two decades? Or are we doomed to being the world hegemon until my son hits draft age?