Akrotiri RAF base in Cyprus could be in the firing line after Russia warned it would shoot down any missiles launched at Syria and target wherever they were fired from.
Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin, repeating a warning given by President Vladimir Putin, said “if there is a strike by the Americans, then . . . the missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the missiles were fired”.
Satellite photographs have shown that Russia has moved its naval vessels out of the harbour at the Tartus naval base on the Mediterranean coast, close to where the cruise missile-armed US warship USS Donald Cook is positioned. The US destroyer left the Larnaca port on Monday.
Eight cruise missile-armed tornado fighter-bombers based at RAF Akrotiri, outside Limassol, would likely take part in any military action should Britain, France and the US decide to proceed with strikes on Syrian targets.
Six Typhoon jets, armed with air-to-air missiles, would be on standby to protect them from any potential enemy fire.
The Russian air force could also deploy cruise missiles against the RAF base to take out the runway
One of the biggest threats posed to British, French and US aircraft is Russia’s S-400 long-range surface-to-air missile defence system.
The Russian air force could also deploy cruise missiles against the RAF base to take out the runway. Such a move would be considered even more escalatory as Cyprus has close ties to Russia and many Russians live on the Mediterranean island.
Military experts have warned that the US and its allies will likely strike the airbase used to launch the suspected chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held town of Douma last weekend that left more than 70 people dead.
The aim would be to crater the runway to enable it to target helicopter and other aircraft at the site.
Britain’s military airbase in Cyprus could find itself at risk of Russian retaliation after Moscow vowed to shoot down any missiles fired at Syria and target wherever they had been launched.
General Sir Richard Barrons, a former commander of the Joint Forces Command, called the Russian ambassador's comments a threat of war. “He’s saying they are going to try and sink ships, sink submarines and shoot aircraft out of the sky — that’s war,” he said.
The Russian threat prompted a swift reaction from President Trump, telling Russia to “get ready” for American missiles.
The ministry of defence and the army headquarters in Damascus were emptied of equipment and personnel two days ago, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Fighters from the Iranian-backed militia Hezbollah began vacating positions near two regime airbases in western Syria.
Moscow has repeatedly warned of the danger that Russian personnel stationed at Syrian military facilities could be killed in any attacks. Iranian personnel are also stationed at many of the Syrian facilities.
(Express and The Times)