Strikes could be carried out by Tornado jets, armed with Storm Shadow cruise missiles, and helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious is already deployed in the Mediterranean as part of long-planned exercise Cougar 13
29 Aug 2013 telegraph.co.uk
With the possibility of intervention in Syria on the horizon, an arsenal of military might is available for use by defence chiefs.
The Royal Navy's Response Force
The Royal Navy's Response Force Task Group is already deployed in the Mediterranean as part of long-planned exercise Cougar 13. The force includes helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious, type-23 frigates HMS Westminster and HMS Montrose, amphibious warship HMS Bulwark and six Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships.
Type 23 frigate HMS Lancaster – photo LA(Phot) Gary Weatherston, MOD 2012
Type-23, or Duke-class, frigates are said to be the core of the frontline fleet. Carrying 185 personnel, they are 133m long, have a range of 7,800 nautical miles and a top speed of 28 knots. They carry Sea Wolf surface-to-air missile systems, the main line of defence against attacking aircraft and missiles, as well as a Harpoon anti-ship missile system and guns.
HMS Trafalgar, pictured during Tomahawk missile trials - photo US DoD
Trafalgar-class nuclear submarine HMS Tireless is also believed to be in the area, after being spotted at the weekend in Gibraltar. The Trafalgar-class is a class of nuclear-powered fleet submarines and form the backbone of the Royal Navy's nuclear-powered "hunter-killer" submarine force. HMS Torbay, Trenchant, Talent, and Triumph are fitted with the Sonar 2076 system, described by the Navy as the most advanced sonar in service with any navy in the world and carry Tomahawk cruise missiles.
Tomahawk cruise missile
HMS Astute Fires a Tomahawk Cruise Missile (TLAM) During Testing Near the USA photo UK MoD
The Tomahawk IV, known in the Navy as TLAM (Tomahawk land attack cruise missile), allows submarines to strike at ground targets hundreds of miles inland with "pinpoint accuracy".
The 5.5 metre-long cruise missile, which weighs 1,300kg and has a range of more than 1,000 miles, is fitted to all Trafalgar and Astute-class submarines. It has been in use with the Submarine Service since the late 1990s and has been used in the Kosovo conflict and, more recently, in campaigns against the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.
After it is fired from a boat's torpedo tubes and reaches the surface, a booster rocket propels the missile skywards and it heads for its target at around 550mph, delivering a 1,000lb explosive warhead.
Tornado jets armed with cruise missiles
RAF Tornado of 617 Squadron – Picture RAF MOD 2012
Strikes could also be carried out by Tornado jets armed with Storm Shadow cruise missiles.
Previously used in areas such as Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan and, most recently, Libya, the Tornado GR4 is a two-seat, day or night, all-weather attack aircraft which can fire a variety of weapons.
Powered by two Rolls-Royce RB 199 Mk 103 turbofan engines, it can fly automatically at low level when poor weather prevents visual flight and is equipped with infrared and night vision so it can be used at night in all weather.
All Tornado GR4s can carry the air launched anti-radiation missile (Alarm), which homes on to the emitted radiation of enemy radar systems and it's own defences have been upgraded to include state-of-the-art Asraam short range air-to-air missile. It is also equipped with a 27mm Mauser cannon which can fire 1,700 rounds per minute.
The GR4 typically carries up to a maximum of five Paveway IV laser-guided bombs, or two Storm Shadow cruise missiles, but can be configured with various weapons, targeting pods and reconnaissance pods.
Storm Shadow missiles
Tornado GR4 - Storm Shadow
The Storm Shadow is a long-range, air-launched and conventionally armed missile.
It allows the Tornado to make "precision strikes" in poor weather with a greatly increased stand-off range from the target area.
Equipped with a powerful warhead, it is designed to attack important hardened targets and infrastructure such as buried and protected command centres.
Mission data, including target details, is loaded into the missile's main computer before the aircraft leaves. Then, after it is fired, its wings deploy and the missile navigates its way to the target at low level.
On its final approach it climbs, discards its nose cone and uses an advanced infrared seeker to match the target area with stored imagery. This process is repeated as the missile dives onto the target, using higher-resolution imagery, to ensure the maximum accuracy.
Typhoon Jet Taking Off from RAF Coningsby photo UK MoD
Britain has also deployed various aircraft to Cyprus to protect Sovereign Base Areas in the overseas territory.
Six RAF Typhoons have been sent to RAF Akrotiri in a "defensive counter air" role.
The RAF's four frontline Typhoon Squadrons are based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire and RAF Leuchars in Fife, and each squadron operates up to 15 aircraft.
Typhoons have two Eurojet EJ200 turbojets. They can reach a maximum speed of 1.8 Mach and an altitude of 55,000ft.
The jets sent to Cyprus are armed with advanced, medium range air-to-air missiles (Amraam), Asraam and a Mauser cannon for close combat.
Eurofighter test firing the AMRAAM air-to-air missile.
The Amraam, which can be used in all weather, is launched from a range of 20 to 30 nautical miles then guided by its own navigation system, while receiving command-guidance updates from the launch aircraft . It is equipped with a radar proximity fuse which detonates the high-explosive fragmentation warhead at a pre-set distance from the target.
In short-range mode, it can be launched "active-off-the-rail" when the missile's radar detects the target immediately after launch.
The Asraam is a high-speed, highly manoeuvrable, heat-seeking air-to-air missile designed as a "fire-and-forget" weapon which can counter things like infrared countermeasures.
Typically, it is slaved to a target either visually or by the launch aircraft's onboard sensors. After its release, the missile accelerates to speeds faster than Mach 3 whilst being guided to the target using its infrared seeker. Detonation of the high-explosive fragmentation warhead is achieved by either a laser proximity fuse or an impact fuse.
The Mauser BK-27 is a 27mm cannon fitted to Tornado jets for air-to-air or air-to-ground firing. The cannon is a single-barrel, high-performance breech-cylinder gun and can fire at a rate of 1000 or 1700 rounds per minute.
RAF E-3D Sentry photo UK MoD
The RAF operates seven E-3D Sentry aircraft in the airborne surveillance and command-and-control role.
Based at RAF Waddington, they are operated by Nos 8 and 23 Squadrons as the UK's contribution to the Nato Airborne Early Warning and Control Force.
The Sentry's roles are air and sea surveillance, airborne command and control, and weapons control, and it can also operate as an extensive communications platform.
It cruises at 30,000ft and 400 knots and its high-performance radar, housed in the black radome, can separate airborne and maritime targets from ground and sea clutter.
One Sentry flying at 30,000ft can scan at distances of over 300 nautical miles, can detect low-flying targets or maritime surface contacts within 215 nautical miles and can detect medium-level airborne targets at ranges beyond 280 nautical miles.