US: Russian fighter jet's flare damaged drone over Syria

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Russian Su-35
The Su-35 during the incident.
Image: United States Air Forces Central.

US Air Forces Central released a statement yesterday a Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jet "flew dangerously close" meters over a US MQ-9 drone flying a "defeat-ISIS [Islamic State]" mission over Syria on Sunday. According to the statement, the pilot of the Russian fighter released flares, one damaging the propeller of the MQ-9, which returned safely to its home base.

Damaged MQ-9 propeller
A blade of the damaged MQ-9 propeller.
Image: United States Air Forces Central.

Lieutenant General Alex Grynkewich, the commander of US Air Forces Central, said: "The Russian fighter's blatant disregard for flight safety detracts from our mission to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS." Grynkewich added: "We call upon the Russian forces in Syria to put an immediate end to this reckless, unprovoked, and unprofessional behavior."

Russia had not commented as of Tuesday.

According to US officials, the frequency of interactions between Russian and US military aircraft in Syrian airspace has been increasing. General Mark Milley, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in a press conference the preceding week, "there is a bit of an uptick, but I wouldn't overstate it too much. I think that our forces have adequate rules of engagement and authorities provided to defend themselves." General Milley added: "As to [a] reason why there's a little bit of an uptick, I'm not really certain. We've got analysts trying to figure that out."

Both countries have maintained a military presence in Syria, Russia supporting President Bashar al-Assad's regime, and the US supporting the anti-Islamic State Operation Inherent Resolve with approximately 900 troops. The Syrian and Russian governments have expressed opposition to the presence of US forces in Syria.

In March, the US House of Representatives voted against a resolution that would have required its nation to withdraw that mission.