Military

US Military: Russian Fighter Jet Fired Flares At, Damaged US Drone Over Syria

July 25, 2023Associated Press
n this image from video released by the U.S. Air Force, a Russian fighter jet flies close to a U.S. drone over Syria, July 23, 2023. A Russian fighter jet flew within a few meters of a U.S. drone over Syria and fired flares at it, striking the American aircraft and damaging it.

In this image from video released by the U.S. Air Force, a Russian fighter jet flies close to a U.S. drone over Syria, July 23, 2023. A Russian fighter jet flew within a few meters of a U.S. drone over Syria and fired flares at it, striking the American aircraft and damaging it, the U.S. military said Tuesday, the latest in a string of aggressive intercepts by Russia in the region. U.S. Air Force photo via AP.

By LOLITA C. BALDOR and TARA COPP, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A Russian fighter jet flew within a few meters of a U.S. drone over Syria and fired flares at it, striking the American aircraft and damaging it, the U.S. military said Tuesday, the latest in a string of aggressive intercepts by Russia in the region.

A senior Air Force commander said the move on Sunday was an attempt by the Russians to knock the MQ-9 Reaper drone out of the sky and came just a week after a Russian fighter jet flew dangerously close to a U.S. surveillance aircraft carrying a crew in the region, jeopardizing the lives of the four Americans on board.

“One of the Russian flares struck the U.S. MQ-9, severely damaging its propeller,” Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the head of U.S. Air Forces Central, said in a statement describing the latest close call. "We call upon the Russian forces in Syria to put an immediate end to this reckless, unprovoked, and unprofessional behavior.”

Grynkewich said one of the crew members operating the drone remotely kept it in the air and flew it back to its home base.

This image from video released by the U.S. Air Force, shows a damaged propeller from a U.S. drone.

This image from video released by the U.S. Air Force, shows a damaged propeller from a U.S. drone, July 23, 2023. A Russian fighter jet flew within a few meters of a U.S. drone over Syria and fired flares at it, striking the American aircraft and damaging it, the U.S. military said Tuesday, the latest in a string of aggressive intercepts by Russia in the region. Despite the damage, the aircraft was able to return to its home base. U.S. Air Force photo via AP.

The Sunday incident is the latest in a series of encounters between Russian fighter jets and U.S. aircraft flying over Syria. In all but the one instance a week ago, the U.S. aircraft were MQ-9 drones without crew members. On that Sunday, however, the Russian Su-35 jet few close to a U.S. MC-12 surveillance aircraft with a crew, forcing it to go through the turbulent wake.

U.S. officials at the time called it a significant escalation in the ongoing string of encounters between U.S. and Russian aircraft that could have resulted in an accident or loss of life. They said the Russian move hampered the crew members' ability to safely operate their plane.

In recent weeks, U.S. officials said, Russian fighter jets have repeatedly harassed U.S. MQ-9 drones, which are conducting anti-Islamic State group missions, largely in western Syria.

On multiple occasions in the past three weeks, the officials said, Russian fighter jets flew dangerously close to the U.S. Reapers, setting off flares and forcing the drones to take evasive maneuvers.

U.S. and Russian military officers communicate frequently over a deconfliction phone line during the encounters, protesting the other side’s actions.

There are about 900 U.S. forces in Syria, and others move in and out to conduct missions targeting Islamic State group militants.

Read Next: Behind the Photo: The Medal of Honor Recipient Who Led the Charge at Inchon

Associated Press
Associated Press

The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting, founded in 1846.

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