By Bijan Razzaghi
During the recent operation to strike Syrian chemical weapon facilities US Air Force F-16C and F-15Cs provided air cover during the operation. French Mirage 2000s and Typhoons also supported the strike packages.
The primary role of the F-15C and F-16C during this operation was to counter enemy fighters that might attempt to intercept allied bombers and TLAMs (Tomahawk missiles). The F-15Cs can engage hostile aircraft at 57 miles with the AIM-120C AMRAAM missile or if needed engage aircraft at close range to deter enemy fighters away from the bombers.
The F-16Cs share the same air to air capabilities of the F-15C yet add the ability to deploy the AN/ALQ-131 ECM jammer. The jammer can be used to disrupt enemy radars to shield the missile launch which delays the detection of the incoming missiles. This gives enemy SAM units less time to react to the impending attack. At least 1 EA-6B Prowler provided jamming support for the strike force as well.
In addition to the jamming support the JASSM missiles used were stealth. During the operation no Syrian or Russian fighters were scrambled, yet Syrian air defenses launched as many as 40 missiles in which none hit their targets.