The United States has lodged accusations against Russia, claiming that a Russian fighter jet engaged in “unprofessional behavior” by targeting an American drone with a flare in Syrian airspace. The confrontation occurred over the weekend, and tensions between the two nations have escalated as a result.
The U.S. Air Forces Central issued a statement on Tuesday, revealing the details of the alarming encounter. According to the statement, a Russian aircraft dangerously approached a U.S. MQ-9 drone in the early hours of Sunday, launching flares in a provocative manner. Regrettably, one of the flares struck the MQ-9, severely damaging its propeller. However, the skilled MQ-9 crew managed to maintain flight and safely return the drone to its home base, averting a potential disaster.
Expressing concern over these incidents, Lieutenant General Alex Grynkewich, the head of U.S. Air Forces Central, called upon Russian forces in Syria to cease their “reckless, unprovoked, and unprofessional behavior” immediately.
This event is not an isolated case; it is part of a series of encounters between Russian fighter jets and U.S. drones over Syrian airspace. The U.S. Air Force had previously released video footage on July 6, depicting another instance where a Russian SU-35 fighter jet approached an American drone. In that encounter, the Russian pilot engaged in aggressive maneuvers, including the activation of the afterburner, in an attempt to interfere with the drone’s operation.
As tensions continue to rise, concerns over the safety of American personnel have heightened. On July 16, unidentified U.S. officials reported that a Russian jet had flown dangerously close to a U.S. surveillance aircraft, jeopardizing the lives of its four crew members.
These incidents are taking place amidst already strained relations between the U.S. and Russia, which have escalated further since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in the previous year. A diplomatic dispute had also arisen in March when the U.S. accused Russian jets of downing a Reaper drone over the Black Sea, a claim denied by Moscow. Video footage released by the U.S. military, however, showed that the Russian planes engaged in maneuvers to obstruct the drone’s flight path.
The latest encounter involved the American drone being on a mission to defeat the ISIL (ISIS) armed group, which had previously controlled significant territories in Syria and Iraq. Presently, around 900 U.S. forces are deployed in Syria to collaborate with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the fight against ISIL. On the other hand, Russia remains the primary supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
As the situation continues to evolve, international concerns mount over the potential consequences of such incidents in the already volatile region. The U.S. government urges Russia to cease these provocative actions to avoid further escalation and ensure the safety of military personnel and equipment.