‘I Didn’t See The Pilot Eject:’ First US Pilot To Score Air-To-Air Kill In Nearly 20 Years Speaks Out

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Joe Painter/Released)

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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A U.S. Navy pilot’s encounter with a Syrian regime Su-22 only lasted eight minutes in late June before he scored the first U.S. air-to-air kill in 18 years, according to his interview with Save the Royal Navy.

U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael Tremel obliterated the Su-22 after it repeatedly bombed U.S.-backed anti-Islamic State fighters in Syria. Prior to Tremel’s shoot-dow, the last U.S. air-to-air kill was in 1999 during American participation in NATO Operation Allied Force over Yugoslavia, where Lt. Col. Michael H. Geczy downed a Soviet-era MIG-29 with an F-16CJ.

“I did not directly communicate with the Syrian Jet but he was given several warnings,” Tremel explained. “We released ordnance and yes it hit a target that was in the air, but it really just came back to defending those guys that were doing the hard job on the ground and taking that ground back from ISIS.”

Tremel elaborated that he did not see the pilot eject, but that his co-pilot spotted a parachute, indicating the Syrian pilot may have survived the shoot-down.

The air-to-air incident came during a period of heightened tensions between the U.S., Iran, Russia, and the Syrian regime.

Syria, Russia, and Iran are wary of a growing U.S. presence in northern Syria focused on retaking ISIS’s capital of Raqqa. The regime and its allies have repeatedly provoked the U.S. into armed confrontations by launching drones and sending fighters into a previously agreed upon ceasefire zone.

Tremel’s shoot-down prompted a warning from Russia, claiming that any U.S. aircraft west of the Euphrates river would be considered a legitimate target.

“Any aircraft, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected in the operation areas west of the Euphrates River by the Russian air forces will be followed by Russian ground-based air defense and air defense aircraft as air targets,” Russia’s defense ministry declared at the time.

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