US: Russia's Third Harassment Went On for Almost 2 Hours

Follow the standards of a professional air force over Syria, general again urges
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 6, 2023 7:00 PM CDT
Updated Jul 8, 2023 3:30 PM CDT
Pentagon Tells Russia to Stop Harassing US Drones Over Syria
In this image from video released by the US Air Force, a Russian SU-35 flies near a US MQ-9 Reaper drone on Wednesday over Syria.   (U.S. Air Force via AP)
UPDATE Jul 8, 2023 3:30 PM CDT

The Defense Department said Russian fighter jets harassed US drones over Syria for nearly two hours on Friday, the third time this week the nations' forces had a close encounter. "Russian aircraft flew 18 unprofessional close passes that caused the MQ-9s to react to avoid unsafe situations," US Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich said in a statement, CNN reports. "We continue to encourage Russia to return to the established norms of a professional Air Force," he added, in the interest of defeating ISIS forces. France's military has reported a similar encounter, saying Russian fighters had a "non-professional interaction" with two of its Rafale fighter jets on Thursday.

Jul 6, 2023 7:00 PM CDT

Russian fighter jets flew dangerously close to several US drone aircraft over Syria again Thursday, setting off flares and forcing the MQ-9 Reapers to take evasive maneuvers, the Air Force said. It was the second time in 24 hours that Russia has harassed US drones there, the AP reports. "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," Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, head of US Air Forces Central Command, said in a statement.

Col. Michael Andrews, Air Forces Central Command spokesman, said "the Russian harassment} lasted nearly an hour. "So it wasn't a quick fly-by, but much more of a sustained and unprofessional interaction," Andrews said. US Air Forces Central released videos of the incidents. In the first, on Wednesday morning local time in Northwest Syria, Russian SU-35 fighters closed in on a Reaper, and one of the Russian pilots moved their aircraft in front of a drone and engaged the SU-35's afterburner, which greatly increases its speed and air pressure. The jet blast from the afterburner can damage the Reaper's electronics, and Grynkewich said it reduced the drone operator's ability to safely operate the aircraft. Later, a number of the so-called parachute flares moved into the drone's flight path. The flares are attached to parachutes.

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In the second incident, over Northwest Syria on Thursday morning, "Russian aircraft dropped flares in front of the drones and flew dangerously close, endangering the safety of all aircraft involved," Grynkewich said. The drones were not armed with weapons and are commonly used for reconnaissance missions. Army Gen. Erik Kurilla, head of US Central Command, said in a statement that Russia's violation of ongoing efforts to clear the airspace over Syria "increases the risk of escalation or miscalculation." The Guardian posted the Defense Department footage here. About 900 US forces are deployed to Syria to aid in the fight against Islamic State militants there.

(More US-Russia relations stories.)

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