Russia Damages US Drone Over Syria

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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A Russian fighter jet harassed a U.S. drone flying over Syria and launched flares that damaged the drone’s propeller, the U.S. military said in a statement Tuesday.

U.S. military officials have warned that Russia’s increasingly risky behavior creates more opportunity for miscalculation and could inhibit U.S. counter-terrorism operations in Syria. Sunday’s aggressive maneuver was intended to knock the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper surveillance drone, which was conducting a defeat-ISIS mission, out of the sky, the Air Force component responsible for operations in the Middle East said in a statement Tuesday.

“On 23 July, 2023 at 12:23 a.m. (EST) Russian fighter aircraft flew dangerously close to a U.S. MQ-9 drone on a defeat-ISIS mission, harassing the MQ-9 and deploying flares from a position directly overhead, with only a few meters of separation between aircraft,” Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central, said in a statement. “One of the Russian flares struck the U.S. MQ-9, severely damaging its propeller.”

Crew members piloting the craft remotely were able to stabilize the drone and bring it back to its home base, according to Grynkewich. (RELATED: US Deploys Marines To The Middle East To Combat Increased Iranian Aggression)

“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,” Grynkewich added.

Encounters with Russian assets in Syria have stepped up in recent months as a result of Russia’s brazen maneuvers, the U.S. military has said.

Earlier in July, fighter jets harassed U.S. MQ-9 drones three times in as many days, setting off flares and forcing the drones to take evasive maneuvers. Russian officials blamed targeting signals emitted from the American drones for triggering automatic alarms in the Russian jets and said the U.S. was trying to interfere with joint Russian and Syrian military exercises happening in norther Syria at the time, according to state-run media outlet TASS.

A Su-35 jet few close to a U.S. MC-12, a manned surveillance aircraft, on July 16, creating a turbulent wake in the MC-12’s path that could have set conditions for accident and loss of life, U.S. officials said, according to The Associated Press.

In March, a Russian aircraft slammed into the propeller of a U.S. surveillance drone operating over the Black Sea on Tuesday as the U.S. military condemned Russia for what it characterized as a dangerous display of unprofessional behavior.

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