Technical failures and “missed interval” disrupted two-thirds of еру French cruise missiles launches during the April 14 US-led coalition operation in Syria.
Following the April 14 missile strike on Syria, some French media outlets and military blogs claimed that two of three French Navy vessels deployed for the strike had failed to launch Missile de Croisičre Naval (MdCN) cruise missiles.
MdCN is a longer-range sea-launched variant of the Storm Shadow/SCALP EG air-launched cruise missile developed for the French Navy.
On April 18, spokesman for the French Joint Chief of Staff, Army Colonel Patrick Steiger told Defense News on April 18 that “The first salvo did not fire.”
The French media outlet Lettre A was first to reported a “technical failure” during the French missile attack on Syria within the US-led coalition. The April 14 incident was first combat launch of MdCN missiles.
The failures during the April 14 strikes explain why France refused to reveal what vessel fired missiles on Syria and why France deployed FREMM multi-purpose frigates along with an anti-aircraft warfare frigate, antisubmarine warfare frigate and a submarine.
La Lettre reported that “unexplained technical failures” prevented the frigate Aquitaine from launching missiles on Syria. Then the same problem occured with Auvergne. Finally, the reserved vessel, Languedoc, conducted a successful missile launch. This frigate hit the targets (not confirmed yet), according to French Defense Minister Florence Parly.
The French Navy and MBDA, the missile manufacturer, rejected commenting on the incident.
Each of the five Rafale fighter jets on the April 14 mission carried two SCALP air-launched cruise missiles. The country’s defense minister stated that nine SCALPs were fired.
However, the video published at Twitter later that day, showed that none of Rafales did carry missiles when they returned to the base. It isn’t clear what happened to the 10th SCALP.
The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) didn’t reveal any incidents during their Storm Shadow (SCALP version) launch by four Tornado GR4 warplanes.
Disastrous debut of MdCN
The French Navy deployed three FREMM multi-purpose frigates – Aquitaine, Auvergne, Languedoc – in the East Mediterranean Sea, allegedly near Israeli coast. These vessels were equipped with MdCNs missiles. Each of the frigates has Sylver A70 vertical launching system.
On April 17, French newspaper L’Opinion citing military sources claimed that the French Navy had been planning to launch naval cruise missiles from two of the three frigates. However, only Languedoc fired three missiles during the established interval, after the Aquitaine had failed.
These reports confirm the failures of the French Navy during their first combat usage of its only non-nuclear naval cruise missiles – MdCNs.
It should be noted the story with the SCALP story is even less clear. According to Imperia-MIR’s sources:
7 of the 10 SCALP missiles crashed into the sea because of technical failures;
2 SCALPs crashed because of engine failures a few minutes after their launch;
1 SCALP was not launched because of a technical problem and then was dropped because of security concerns;
These reports explain why the Russian Defense Ministry said that it had observed no participation of the French Air Force in the April 14 attack as well as why the French military revealed only one target in Homs that had been allegedly hit by 2 SCALPs. At the same time, the French military said that 7 SCALPs had hit some “bunker” without providing its location.