Russian aircraft strikes US drone with flare while hovering over Syria

A US soldier guides the MQ-9 Reaper drone as it lands at Subic Bay Freeport Zone on April 23, 2023, as part of the US-Philippines joint military exercise. — AFP
A US soldier guides the MQ-9 Reaper drone as it lands at Subic Bay Freeport Zone on April 23, 2023, as part of the US-Philippines joint military exercise. — AFP   

The United States shared on Tuesday that a Russian fighter jet used a flare to hit an American drone over Syria recently after Washington, once again, criticised Moscow for their “unprofessional behaviour” in the airspace above the country.

In a statement on Tuesday, US Air Forces Central said a Russian aircraft “flew dangerously close” to a US MQ-9 drone in the early hours of Sunday, “harassing” the drone and “deploying flares from a position overhead”.

“One of the Russian flares struck the US MQ-9, severely damaging its propeller. Fortunately, the MQ-9 crew was able to maintain flight and safely recover the aircraft to its home base,” Lieutenant General Alex Grynkewich, the head of US Air Forces Central, said.

“We call upon the Russian forces in Syria to put an immediate end to this reckless, unprovoked, and unprofessional behaviour.”

The most recent occurrence involves a string of confrontations between Russian fighter planes and US drones in Syria.

In Syria, there was an encounter between a Russian SU-35 fighter and an American aircraft. The US Air Force shared a video of this incident on July 6, where the Russian fighter can be seen approaching the American aircraft.

The video footage revealed the Russian pilot manoeuvring his plane to face the MQ-9 Reaper and activating the afterburner to rapidly accelerate the speed and air pressure.

According to Al-Jazeera, unidentified US officials claim that a Russian aircraft flew too close to a US surveillance plane over Syria on July 16th which endangered the lives of the four American crew members on board.

Tensions have increased between the United States and Russia due to the complete invasion of Ukraine by Moscow in February of the previous year.

Back in March, there was a short-lived diplomatic conflict between the US and Russia.

The US accused Russian jets of shooting down a Reaper drone, which was worth over $30 million and contained highly classified US surveillance technology. The drone was in operation above the Black Sea at the time of the incident.

Despite Moscow’s denial of responsibility for the crash, video footage released by the US military suggests that Russian warplanes were involved in obstructing the drone’s flight path.

In Tuesday’s statement, US Air Force Central said the American drone hit by a Russian flare was “on a defeat-ISIS [Daesh] mission”, referring to the ISIL (ISIS) armed group that previously controlled vast swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq.

There are currently around 900 US military personnel stationed in Syria to assist the Syrian Democratic Forces, which are led by the Kurds, in their efforts against ISIL. It is important to note that Russia is a key supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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