Royal Naval force is in full state of readiness
This is the scale of UK military might which could be directed towards Syria, if the Government gives the go-ahead.
The Response Force Task Group (RFTG) – a Royal Naval force involving four warships and five support vessels – is currently exercising in the Mediterranean under the name Cougar 13.
At the moment the ships – which include the Devonport-based frigate HMS Montrose and assault ship HMS Bulwark – are off Albania taking part in Exercise Albanian Lion, which also involves nearly 1,000 Westcountry-based Royal Marines.
The long-planned exercise, headed by Colonel Kevin Oliver, Deputy Commander of Plymouth-based 3 Commando Brigade, will see the Lead Commando Group of 42 Commando – the marine unit that stands ready to react to events anywhere in the world – carry out a series of mock assaults on enemy positions.
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The RFTG is the UK's high readiness maritime force, made up of ships, submarines, aircraft and a landing force of Royal Marines, ready at five days notice to act in response to any contingency. It is commanded by Commodore Paddy McAlpine from the Fleet Flagship HMS Bulwark.
Also believed to be in the Med is the Devonport-based nuclear submarine HMS Tireless. Just over two years ago, in March 2011, her sister Trafalgar class sub, HMS Triumph, launched some of the first Tomahawk missile strikes against Colonel Gaddafi's forces in Libya.
In an uncanny coincidence, the RFTG just happened to be on a long-planned exercise – Operation Cougar – in the Mediterranean as the Libyan crisis escalated in 2011.
A British and US attack to punish Syria for using chemical weapons would see the allies launch more than 100 missiles in a blitz lasting up to 48 hours. These would be unleashed to destroy President Bashar al-Assad's command and control centres, intelligence bases and military training camps.
The RAF are also likely to be involved. During the Libyan campaign, several Tornado GR4 jets armed with 'fire and forget' Storm Shadow missiles flew long-range missions from a base in Norfolk to attack military targets used by forces loyal to Gaddafi.
British special forces are reportedly already in Syria in readiness to guide Allied strikes.