The US, France, and the UK, appear on the verge of combat with Syria, and possibly its ally Russia, over suspected chemical weapons use against civilians – and it could easily spiral into one of the most complicated, advanced military skirmishes of all time.
But the US has a ton of firepower in the Middle East, though the stock has been depleted since ISIS’s all but total defeat caused the US to send some assets home, and some assets elsewhere.
Business Insider reviewed an Institute of International Strategic Studies report on the military balance in Syria to give a breakdown of what countries have what assets in striking range of Syria.
Find out how the forces stack up, and who has what below:
The US has the air superiority fighters in place and ready to go.
- US Air Force
The US has a squadron of F-15E Strike Eagles in Jordan and a half-strength squadron of F-22 Raptor fighter jets in the United Arab Emirates for air supremacy.
In Qatar, the US has B-1B Lancers replacing the old deployment of B-52 Stratofortresses, and B-2 Spirit stealth bombers are never far away, thanks to refueling and bases around the world.
Elsewhere in the region, the US has A-10s and nine US Marine Corps F/A-18A+ Hornets.
The US two destroyers in the region and tons of power under the waves.
At sea, the US has two Arleigh-Berke class guided-missile destroyer, the USS Donald Cook and the USS Winston S. Churchill, which hold up to 96 Tomahawk cruise missiles, the very same type the US used in its last strike on Syria in April 2017.
But underwater, the IISS estimates the US has one fast-attack nuclear submarine with up to 40 Tomahawks, and possibly another former nuclear-missile submarine converted to carry 154 Tomahawks, greatly upping the ante.
US ground forces also can’t be underestimated.
- Wikimedia Commons
The US has ground-launched missiles that could riddle Syrian or Russian defenses, but would carry a high risk of counter attack as they’re less mobile.
France has jets and a ship already sailing with the US.
France, whose President Emmanuel Macron has been coordinating a response with Trump for the better part of a week, has 10 Rafale multirole fighters in the region, as well as a navy destroyer deployed alongside the USS Donald Cook.
The French destroyer, the Aquitaine, is equipped with new Missile De Croisière Naval cruise missiles.
The UK has jets nearby and a ship capable of air defense for the allied fleet.
The UK, which has also decided to participate in the strike, has the HMS Duncan in Eastern Mediterranean as the flagship of NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2, though it does not have any land-attack capacity, and can only contribute to air defenses.
In the air, the UK has a mix of Tornado and Typhoon jet fighters in Cyprus.
UK and French jets can conduct standoff attacks on Syria.
- Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb
The UK and French jets can conduct standoff attacks on Syria from outside its airspace with Storm Shadow and Scalp EG cruise missiles.
Russian and Syrian air defenses offer stiff resistance.
- Russian Defense Ministry
On the side of the Russia and Syria, sophisticated air defenses would keep US and allied forces on their toes.
Russian-made Pantsir-S1 and Buk-M2E operated by Syria pose a threat, and batteries of S-400 and S-300V4 long-range surface-to-air missiles protecting Russian air and naval bases have consistently given NATO planners pause.
Russia’s air force in Syria is no joke.
- Russian Ministry of Defense
Russian fighter aircraft in Syria, like Su-34s and Su-30SMs, can pose a real threat to allied aircraft, but the F-22, the world’s most deadly combat plane with a combination of stealth and dogfighting ability, could likely run cover for US air operations.
So who would win?
- Rodi Said/Reuters
Since Trump announced that US missiles would soon hit Syria, Business Insider spoke to several experts in different fields who all unanimously responded that Russia’s military in Syria would lose a conventional fight to the US forces in the region alone.
For that reason, they all said it’s unlikely Russia actually wants a fight with the US, and may simply be blustering with some of its more direct threats.
While the US regards Russia’s air defenses as potent, and experts say even F-22 stealth jets wouldn’t have an easy time taking them out, the US can just overwhelm any defenses with a massive volley of cruise missiles.