On Friday in the opening segment of its Evening News, CBS reported that 59 cruise missiles hit a Syrian airfield, causing great damage. They tell us that two US Navy destroyers fired 60 Tomahawk missiles and that, “one of them failed and went in the water, while the other 59 flew different routes in order to hit the target all at the same time.”
They go on to say that “Neither Syrian or Russian air defenses tried to shoot the missiles down,” and add a quote from US Navy Commodore Tate Westbrook that, “We had no indication of any Russian intent to interfere with this mission.”
They do not actually say that all 59 missiles hit the airfield, but they certainly make a valiant effort to convey that impression, which caught my attention because I had already read two reports earlier in the day which said that only 23 missiles had hit the airfield. Neither source was entirely reliable, so I spent a good bit of time yesterday digging deeper into the issue.
I now have four sources, all of which I consider reliable, which say that 23 missiles hit the airfield; representing a 38% success rate. One source is Russian, one German and two Syrian, and all four of them are in agreement on 23 missiles specifically.
If you are not familiar with the Tomahawk, it is a missile which is launched from ships against surface targets. It has been in use for more than 40 years, is both reliable and accurate, and is pretty devastating against surface installations, carrying 1000 pounds of varying types of non-nuclear warhead. It flies low to avoid radar, and has a speed of around 550 mph.
So, what happened to the other 36 missiles? One source suggests that some fell prey to anti-aircraft fire, notwithstanding the Commodore’s statement, while others were the victim of something electronic that caused their guidance systems to fail.
Since the Tomahawk is an offensive weapon, not a defensive one, this does not constitute an “oh shit, we’re all going to die” issue, but it illustrates the appalling unreliability of Scott Pelley and CBS News.