US Jets Intercepted Russian Warplanes in Syria, Pentagon Says
(Source: Voice of America News; issued Dec 14, 2017)
Another aerial catfight almost broke out yesterday over Syria, between two F-22s and two Russian Su-25s they tried to warn off from a deconflicted space the Pentagon says they should not have entered. (USAF file photo)
WASHINGTON --- Two U.S. warplanes intercepted two Russian jets over a part of Syria they were not supposed to be operating in, the Pentagon said Thursday.
At one point during Wednesday's incident, the American F-22 Raptor stealth fighters deployed radar and infrared countermeasures to try to persuade the Russian Su-25s to leave the area, and one U.S. pilot had to "aggressively maneuver" to avoid a midair collision, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said.
The Russian fighters had flown into airspace controlled by the U.S.-led coalition that is fighting the Islamic State group in Syria, crossing onto the east side of the Euphrates River near Albu Kamal.
They "were promptly intercepted by two F-22A Raptors providing air cover for partner ground forces conducting operations to defeat ISIS," Pahon said.
"The F-22s conducted multiple maneuvers to persuade the Su-25s to depart our deconflicted airspace, including the release of chaff and flares in close proximity to the Russian aircraft and placing multiple calls on the emergency channel to convey to the Russian pilots that they needed to depart the area," he added.
The incident lasted approximately 40 minutes before the Russian aircraft flew to the west side of the river.
During and following the encounter, coalition leaders contacted Russian officers on a special hotline to try to calm the situation and avert a "strategic miscalculation," Pahon said.
The Pentagon said that in early November the U.S. verbally agreed with Moscow that the Russians would keep west of the Euphrates and the coalition would stay east.
"Since agreeing to this deconfliction arrangement, the Russians have flown into our airspace on the east side of the river six to eight times per day, or approximately 10 percent of the Russian and Syrian flights," Pahon said.
"It's become increasingly tough for our pilots to discern whether Russian pilots' actions are deliberate or if these are just honest mistakes," Pahon said.
Albu Kamal was IS's last urban stronghold in Syria. The army retook it last month.
Moscow Denies Russian Jets Intercepted By US F-22s in Syria
(Source: Sputnik News; posted Dec 14, 2017)
The Russian Defense Ministry released a statement Thursday denying reports of an alleged "intercept" of Russian Su-25s by US F-22 fighter jets in Syria.
"On December 13, a pair of Su-25 attack aircraft escorted a humanitarian convoy near Mayadin [the western bank of the Euphrates River] at an altitude of 3,300 meters. They were approached by a US F-22 fighter jet on the east side of the river. By firing off decoy flares, the F-22 interfered with the flight of a pair of Russian Su-25s," the ministry's statement read. "A Russian Su-35 fighter jet, performing an air cover mission at an altitude of 10,000 meters, swiftly approached the F-22 from the rear, forcing the American aircraft to leave the area."
The incident took place in Syrian airspace east of the Euphrates River.
"Two F-22 went too close to two Russian jets so we had to use the de-confliction channels," a CENTCOM official told Sputnik on Thursday. "This is not something extraordinary… It happens sometimes several times a day."
A US official previously indicated that F-22s fired warning flares to chase Russian Su-25s away from the airspace. The Russian Defense Ministry says the US jets attempted to interfere in a Russian mission to provide air cover for a humanitarian aid convoy.
Per Pentagon spokesperson Eric Pahon, "one Su-25 flew close enough to an F-22A that it had to aggressively maneuver to avoid a midair collision."
"During the incident, a Russian Su-35 also flew across the river and was shadowed closely by one of the F-22As," Pahon added.
Though a verbal agreement last month indicated "that the Russians would remain west of the Euphrates River," according to Pahon, Russian jets have flown into coalition airspace in Syria "on the east side of the river six to eight times per day."