The USS Harry Truman with a strike force of 5 guided missile warships were on their way on Sunday, Nov. 18 to waters off the Syrian coast. They entered the Mediterranean on Friday, Nov. 16, just as the Russian Middle East fleet wound up a series of search and destroy exercises against enemy submarines and warships. They were led by two Russian guided missile frigates Admiral Makarov and Admiral Essen, armed with Kalibr-NK cruise ship-to-shore missiles. Russia air force helicopters took part in the drills. By week’s end, there were 8 Russian warships in the eastern Mediterranean.
Aboard the Truman are 9 squadrons of Carrier Air Wing fighter bombers . Its strike force consists of the Normandy guided missile cruiser and four guided missile destroyers USS Arleigh Burk, USS Forrest Sherman, USS Bulkeley and USS Farragut.
This US-Russian buildup of sea and air forces opposite Syria has accelerated in preparation for two events, DEBKAfile’s military sources report:
- The approaching meeting between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin at Buenos Aires on the sidelines of the 26-30 Nov. G20 summit. Since it is assumed in both Washington and Moscow that the Syria issue will be high on the agenda together with the expanding Iranian presence there, both powers are gearing up for a military event that will tilt the standoff one way or the other.
- A possible Israeli air strike against Iranian targets in Syria after a long pause. The Russians may well decide to use their newly-installed S-300 air defense missiles to shoot down an Israel warplane to get even for the downing of their Il-20 on Sept. 17. For Moscow this is still an open book.