Russian fighter jets have been “harassing” US drones over Syria as the Air Force carried out missions against the Islamic State, officials have said.
A US Air Force general has slammed an incident, which occurred on Wednesday, as “unsafe and unprofessional behaviour”. He said it “threaten[s] the safety of both US and Russian forces”.
The general has called for Russia to stop the “reckless behavior” in Syria, where 900 US troops are still based in the east of the region. It comes as sensors and cameras on board the three MQ-9 Reaper drones captured the Russian fighter jets flying very close to the unmanned aerial vehicles.
The Russian jets also dropped multiple parachute flares in the drones’ path, reports The Mirror.
Lieutenant General Alex Grynkewich, the commander of the Ninth Air Force and the combined forces air component commander for the US Central Command said: “These events represent another example of unprofessional and unsafe actions by Russian air forces.”
The US has also accused Russian forces of carrying out “provocative flights” over eastern Syria. In June, CENTCOM announced it was deploying F-22 Raptors to deter flights above American military bases in the region.
And this is just the latest in a number of encounters between the nations. In March a video emerged showing Russian jets “harassing” a drone until it was involved in a collision.
Lt. Gen. Grynkewich said: “Against established norms and protocols, the Russian jets dropped multiple parachute flares in front of the drones, forcing our aircraft to conduct evasive manoeuvres.
“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.
“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.”
“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,” General 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.”
Defense bosses complained there have been “dozens” of incidents where Russian jets have flown over US bases without taking proper precautions. Back in March the US military launched devastating air strikes after a drone killed an American contractor and injured five troops.
The Pentagon said a suspected Iranian drone struck a facility in northeast Syria that prompted American forces to retaliate with “precision airstrikes” in Syria. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that the American intelligence community had determined that the drone was of Iranian origin.
He said: “The airstrikes were conducted in response to today’s attack as well as a series of recent attacks against coalition forces in Syria” by groups affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard.”