US Accuses Russia of ‘Harassing Our Drones’ Over Syria

by | Jul 6, 2023

US Accuses Russia of ‘Harassing Our Drones’ Over Syria

by | Jul 6, 2023

screenshot 2023 07 06 140819

Russian SU-35 fighter aircraft close in on U.S. MQ-9 aircraft on July 5, 2023 over on July 5, 2023 over Syria. The Russian SU-35 fighter aircraft employed parachute flares in the flight path of U.S. MQ-9 aircraft

The Pentagon has released footage showing a Russian fighter jet flying near an American drone above Syria, as Moscow and Washington continue to trade accusations over unsafe aerial operations. 

US Central Command (CENTCOM) released a brief clip on Wednesday showing a Russian SU-35 fighter and a US MQ-9 Reaper drone. In a press release, the Defense Department said the Russian aircraft caused the drone to take evasive maneuvers. “One Russian pilot positioned their aircraft in front of an MQ-9 and engaged afterburner, dynamically increasing speed and air pressure, which reduced the MQ-9 operator’s ability to safely operate the aircraft,” CENTCOM claimed. 

The video also showed the SU-35 releasing flares in the drone’s flight path, with the Pentagon saying the Russian pilots engaged in a “new level of unprofessional and unsafe action.”

Last month, the Department of Defense announced a new deployment of F-22 Raptors in the region, stressing the need to deter reckless flying by Russian aircraft. “Russian Forces’ unsafe and unprofessional behavior is not what we expect from a professional air force,” CENTCOM commander Gen. Michael Kurilla said. “Their regular violation of agreed upon airspace deconfliction measures increases the risk of escalation or miscalculation.”  

Moscow has similarly accused American pilots of targeting Russian planes operating over Syria. “The so-called ‘international coalition’ led by the United States continues to fragrantly violate the deconfliction protocols and the memorandum of understanding on air safety in Syria,” said Rear Admiral Oleg Gurinov, deputy chief of the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria. “Pilots of the US Air Force are still recorded to be activating weapon systems when approaching in midair the aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces that fly routine sorties in eastern Syria.”

The US and Russia have been on opposite sides of the war in Syria. However, a deconfliction line and regular communications have helped to avoid direct clashes between American and Russian aircraft throughout the conflict. As the relationship between the White House and the Kremlin has deteriorated over Washington’s support for Kiev, it appears Russian and American aircraft are engaging in dangerous maneuvers in other regions. 

In March, two Russian SU-27 fighter jets dumped fuel on an MQ-9 drone operating over the Black Sea, sending the Reaper plunging into the water.

About Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone is news editor of the Libertarian Institute, opinion editor of Antiwar.com and co-host of Conflicts of Interest with Will Porter and Connor Freeman.

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