The U.S. military released dramatic video of a tense encounter on July over Syrian skies as three Russian Su-35 fighters were seen "harassing" three U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drones carrying out a mission against the Islamic State group.
U.S. and Russia are both operating in Syria. While the U.S. is part of the anti-ISIS coalition, Russia supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Air Force Lt. Gen Alex Grynkewich described the Russian maneuver against the drones as “unsafe and unprofessional.”
The video shows the jets releasing multiple parachute flares in front of the drones, ostensibly to block their view. One of Russian pilots reportedly positioned their jet in front of a drone and engaged its afterburner, reducing the ability of the operator to maneuver the U.S. aircraft.
“Against established norms and protocols, the Russian jets dropped multiple parachute flares in front of the drones, forcing our aircraft to conduct evasive maneuvers,” Grynkewich said. “Additionally, one Russian pilot positioned their aircraft in front of an MQ-9 and engaged afterburner, thereby reducing the operator’s ability to safely operate the aircraft.”
The alleged intercept comes nearly four months after one of the two Russian Su-27s forced down an MQ-9 drone over the Black Sea after damaging its propeller.
The increase in such incidents prompted U.S. Central Command less than a month ago to deploy F-22 Raptor fighter jets to the Middle East.