US drones harassed by Russian jets over Syria for second time in 24 hours
Stars and Stripes July 6, 2023
WASHINGTON — Russian fighter jets flew dangerously close to U.S. drones over Syria, setting off flares and forcing the American aircraft to take evasive measures for the second time in the last 24 hours, according to the Air Force.
The Russian aircraft harassed the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drones at about 9:30 a.m. local time Thursday as the American aircraft conducted operations against Islamic State group targets, according to a statement from U.S. Air Forces Central.
The Air Force on Wednesday released video of the first encounter between Russian jets and U.S. drones, which happened at about 10:40 a.m. local time. The video showed a Russian SU-35 fighter closing in on a Reaper drone and several so-called parachute flares moving into the drone’s flight path. The flares are attached to the parachutes.
Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, commander of the 9th Air Force in the Middle East, said in a statement about the first incident that three U.S. drones were operating over northwest Syria against ISIS targets when three Russian aircraft started harassing the drones.
Grynkewich said one of the Russian pilots moved their aircraft in front of a drone and engaged the SU-35’s afterburner, reducing the drone operator’s ability to maneuver the aircraft safely.
“These events represent another example of unprofessional and unsafe actions by Russian air forces operating in Syria, which threaten the safety of both U.S. and Russian forces.” he said. “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.”