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JASSM-ER makes combat debut against Syrian chemical weapons facilities

US, French and British aircraft fired several cruise missiles at chemical weapons research and production facilities in Syria on 13 April, with the action including the combat debut of the Lockheed Martin AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended-Range (JASSM-ER).

After taking off from a base in Qatar, two Boeing B-1B bombers released 19 JASSM-ER weapons. The stealthy cruise missile boasts a range of greater than 430nm (800km). The extended-range version of JASSM was introduced into service with the US Air Force in 2014, but had not been used in combat before. The missiles were likely launched outside of Syrian airspace. The B-1B has a payload of 34,000kg (75,000lb) and can carry up to 24 cruise missiles.

The majority of the 105 cruise missiles launched in the attack were Raytheon BGM-109 Tomahawk land-attack missiles fired from two US Navy cruisers, one destroyer and a nuclear submarine. Those vessels were located in the eastern Mediterranean, Northern Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea.

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The USA, France and the UK allege that the Syrian regime carried out a chemical weapons attack on 7 April on civilians in Douma, a suburb of Damascus, killing around 70 people. The allied attack on Syrian chemical weapons research and production facilities was billed by the US Department of Defense as retribution, as well as an effort to limit the future production and use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.

Four of the UK Royal Air Force's Panavia Tornado GR4s also participated in the action after taking off from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, releasing eight MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missiles. Four Eurofighter Typhoons were flown alongside in support. The French air force, meanwhile, flew Dassault Rafale and Mirage aircraft, reportedly from a base in France, and launched nine SCALP missiles – the French name for the Storm Shadow.

All the US cruise missiles hit their intended targets, says the DoD. No US aircraft or missiles were hit by Syrian air defences, and there was no indication that Russian air-defence systems were employed, it adds. The DoD estimates that more than 40 surface-to-air missiles were launched by the Syrian regime, claiming that many were fired blindly into the air and most after the last impact of US weapons.

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