The US ship that will serve as the lynchpin for the destruction of Syria’s most toxic chemical weapons is preparing to leave Virginia in about two weeks for what will be an unprecedented, complex mission.

Officials familiar with the plan say that the MV Cape Ray is expected to run through sea trials in the coming days and could leave for Italy as early as Jan. 3.

The officials say that two high-tech machines designed to reduce the chemicals to inert material have been bolted to the ship. The officials are not authorized to discuss the plans by name and requested anonymity.

A number of questions remain about how Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal will be destroyed, including what will be done with the material.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.