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US accuses Russia of ‘harassing’ its drones targeting Daesh in Syria

The US State Department has declassified footage from a US operation in Syria, which it alleges shows Russian jets 'harassing' an unmanned American bomber aircraft. The US' Reaper drone was part of an operation with Kurdish forces against Daesh targets in Syria

July 6, 2023 at 12:18 pm

The United States’ Air Force has released footage of Russian fighter jets reportedly harassing its aircraft yesterday in the skies over Syria, amid ongoing tensions between American and Russian forces in the war-ravaged country.

In a series of clips released yesterday, a Russian SU-35 fighter jet can be seen closing in on a US MQ-9 Reaper drone, setting off parachute flares into a drone’s flight path. The incident reportedly caused the MQ-9 Reapers to make unplanned manoeuvres to evade the Russian aircraft.

According to Lieutenant General, Alex Grynkewich, Commander of 9th Air Force in the Middle East, one of the Russian pilots moved their SU-35 in front of a drone and engaged the jet’s afterburner – creating a jet blast which can potentially damage the Reaper’s electronics – and resulted in the reduction of the drone operator’s ability to safely operate it.The jets “began harassing the drones” while three of them were operating over Syria after 10.30 am, local time, he said, while they were reportedly on a mission against the Daesh terror group. “Russian military aircraft engaged in unsafe and unprofessional behaviour while interacting with US aircraft in Syria,” Grynkewich said.

He stressed that the actions threaten the safety of both US and Russian forces, stating that “We urge Russian forces in Syria to cease this reckless behaviour and adhere to the standards of behaviour expected of a professional air force so we can resume our focus on the enduring defeat of Isis [Daesh].”

General Erik Kurilla, the head of US Central Command (CENTCOM), echoed those concerns in a statement which said that Russia’s violation of ongoing efforts to clear the airspace over Syria “increases the risk of escalation or miscalculation”.

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