Russian Fighter Jets ‘Harass’ US Drones in Syria

On Wednesday, the United States government revealed dramatic footage showing a tense confrontation above the skies of eastern Syria, in which Russian fighter jets were observed “harassing” three United States military drones on a mission against the Islamic State group.

The U.S. Air Force general overseeing Middle Eastern operations called the incident “unsafe and unprofessional behavior” and demanded that Russian pilots stop their “reckless behavior” over eastern Syria, where the United States still maintains 900 troops assisting in anti-terrorism efforts.

The conduct “threaten[s] the safety of both U.S. and Russian forces,” he said. In response to what officials have called dozens of provocative Russian flights over eastern Syria, the United States sent F-22 Raptors on Wednesday to prevent further incidents like the one that occurred on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Russian Su-35 planes dropped parachuted flares in the route of the three MQ-9 Reaper drones and one of the jets used its afterburners in front of one of the drones, and many cameras and sensors aboard the drones filmed it all in exquisite detail.

A comparable video showing a Russian pilot’s identical harassment of a MQ-9 flying in international airspace above the Black Sea, which resulted in a collision, was released in March, and it was declassified quickly after the event.

According to a statement released by U.S. Central Command’s Air Component Commander, Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the conflict was started by Russia. “Against established norms and protocols, the Russian jets dropped multiple parachute flares in front of the drones, forcing our aircraft to conduct evasive maneuvers,” Grynkewich said.

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“Additionally, one Russian pilot positioned their aircraft in front of an MQ-9 and engaged afterburner, thereby reducing the operator’s ability to safely operate the aircraft,” he said. “We urge Russian forces in Syria to cease this reckless behavior and adhere to the standards of behavior expected of a professional air force so we can resume our focus on the enduring defeat of ISIS.”

CENTCOM announced the deployment of F-22 Raptors to the Middle East in the middle of June in an effort to dissuade Russian overflights of American sites in eastern Syria. “Russian Forces’ unsafe and unprofessional behavior is not what we expect from a professional air force.

Their regular violation of agreed upon airspace deconfliction measures increases the risk of escalation or miscalculation,” Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, head of CENTCOM, said then. “Alongside our partners and allies, we are committed to improving the security and stability in the region.”

Russian jets have allegedly overflown American bases dozens of times in recent months without following a safety line that has been in place for years to prevent accidents.

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