The US military is prepared to conduct either “limited standoff strikes” or establish a no-fly zone over Syria, said Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin Dempsey. They are among the military options for dealing with Syria available to the White House and Congress, wrote Dempsey in a letter dated July 19 to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Senate Armed Services Committee chairman. Levin last week asked Dempsey to provide an unclassified assessment of the options. For limited strikes, requirements would dictate “hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines, and other enablers,” to target Syrian air defenses, missile sites, and other targets, wrote Dempsey. Depending on the timeframe, the costs would be in the “billions” of dollars, and there is the possibility of collateral damage, the Syrian regime’s dispersal of assets, and retaliatory attacks on US forces, he stated. To establish a NFZ, the United States would need hundreds of aircraft ranging from strike to electronic warfare assets to carry out air superiority operations, wrote Dempsey. He estimated the costs of the NFZ as $500 million “initially” and as much as a billion dollars per month over the course of a year. Risks would entail the possible loss of US aircraft, requiring personnel recovery missions, he stated.
The F-35 Joint Program Office has officially announced plans to issue multiple sole-source contracts to Pratt & Whitney to upgrade the fighter’s F135 engine—a widely expected move after Pentagon officials indicated they would do so earlier this year instead of developing an entirely new engine.