In the first week of July, Russian fighter jets repeatedly harassed U.S. drones conducting missions against ISIS in Syria. Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder called on Russian forces “to cease this type of reckless behavior and to behave like professional airmen.”
In defiance of established norms and protocols, on July 5th Russian jets launched multiple parachute flares at U.S. drones searching for ISIS targets in Syria and flew dangerously close to the drones, forcing them to take evasive maneuvers. In addition, one Russian pilot positioned his aircraft in front of a U.S. drone and engaged the jet’s afterburner, which greatly increases its speed and air pressure, and reduces the operator’s ability to safely operate the aircraft.
A second dangerous incident occurred less than 24 hours later on July 6 when Russian military aircraft again dropped flares in front of several U.S. drones conducting their mission against ISIS targets in Syria. Once more Russian fighter jets flew dangerously close to the U.S. drones and dropped flares in front of them.
Brig. Gen. Ryder dismissed claims by the Russian Defense Ministry that Russian forces were conducting joint drills with Syrian forces and that the United States had violated air space and deconfliction protocols.
“We have been in Syria for many years now fighting ISIS as part of an international coalition,” he said. “We have rules in place … well established processes and procedures and have successfully deconflicted with the Russians over many years when it comes to safe operations in that region. So to suggest that somehow…this is our fault is ridiculous.”
Lieutenant General Alex Grynkewich, Commander of the 9th Air Force [AFCENT] and Combined Forces Air Component Commander for Central Command, said in a statement, “These events represent another example of unprofessional and unsafe actions by Russian air forces operating in Syria, which threaten the safety of both Coalition and Russian forces. 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.”