A Russian fighter jet harassed and flew “dangerously close” to a U.S. drone over Syria, the U.S. military said, deploying a flare that “severely” damaged the drone and forced it to return to its home base.
The MQ-9 drone was flying on a “defeat-ISIS mission” on Sunday, Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the head of U.S. Air Forces Central, said in a news release Tuesday. These types of drones are unmanned aircraft that can be armed but are primarily used as “intelligence collection” assets, .
According to the news release, the Russian fighter jet approached the drone Sunday morning local time. A video shows the powder-blue Russian plane approaching the drone and flying past it. While directly overhead and “with only a few meters of separation between aircraft,” the Russian plane deployed flares, one of which struck the drone and damaged its propeller.
“Fortunately, the MQ-9 crew was able to maintain flight and safely recover the aircraft to its home base,” Grynkewich said. “The Russian fighter’s blatant disregard for flight safety detracts from our mission to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS. We call upon the Russian forces in Syria to put an immediate end to this reckless, unprovoked, and unprofessional behavior.”
Similar instances were reported in the region earlier in July, with military officials criticizing Russian fighter jets for engaging in “unsafe and unprofessional behavior” toward drones flying over Syria on two consecutive days. In the, three drones were engaged by three Russian fighter jets. The jets then dropped flares in front of the drones, forcing the drones to “conduct evasive maneuvers.” In the , several Russian jets “dropped flares in front of the drones and flew dangerously close” while the drones were conducting an operation against ISIS targets.
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