US Accuses Russia of ‘Harassing Our Drones’ Over Syria

by Kyle Anzalone
Jul 6, 2023

The Pentagon released a video of a Russian fighter jet flying near an American drone above Syria. Moscow and Washington have accused each other of conducting unsafe aerial operations.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) released footage Wednesday showing the Russian SU-35 fighter and the US MQ-9 Reaper drone. In a press release, the Department of Defense 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 reported.

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

Last month, the Department of Defense announced it was moving F-22s into the region to deter “unprofessional” and “unsafe” actions taken by Russian pilots. “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 accused American pilots of targeting Russian planes within Syrian skies. “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 of the Opposing Parties 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.”

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The US and Russia have been on opposite sides of the war in Syria. However, using a deconfliction line and regular communication helped to avoid direct clashes between American and Russian aircraft. 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, causing the Reaper to crash.

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