A US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone photographs a Russian Su-35 flying nearby over Syria, July 5, 2023
UPDATE, JULY 25:
A Russian fighter jet damaged a US MQ-9 Reaper drone flying over Syria on Sunday when it flew within a few meters of the UAV and fired flares, says the American military.
Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the commander of the 9th Air Force, said in a statement:
One of the Russian flares struck the US MQ-9, severely damaging its propeller.
We call upon the Russian forces in Syria to put an immediate end to this reckless, unprovoked, and unprofessional behavior.
A drone operator remotely kept the Reaper in the air and flew it back to its home base.
UPDATE 0725 GMT:
The chairman of the US Joints Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, has said additional military deployments are not needed to fend off Russia’s harassment of American aircraft.
“There’s been an uptick, but I wouldn’t overstate it too much,” Milley told a press briefing of Tuesday. “We’ve got adequate capabilities to defend ourselves.”
On Monday, the US said it will send F-35 joint strike fighters to the Middle East, complementing a short-term rotation of super-advanced stealth F-22 Raptors to Jordan.
A “senior US military official” said the F-22s’ stealth avionics enables American pilots to catch Russian counterparts off-guard.
“They stopped being quite as provocative,” the official said.
ORIGINAL ENTRY, JULY 18: Breaking a years-long “deconfliction” arrangement in Syria, Russia warplanes are harassing US drones and surveillance aircraft flying over the north of the country.
In the last two weeks, the Russians have regularly flown across the path of unmanned MQ-9 Reapers drones, say US officials.
In the latest incident on Sunday afternoon, a Russian Su-35 fighter jet went further by flying close to a US MC-12 surveillance aircraft, endangering the four American crew members.
The MC-12, a twin-engine turboprop aircraft used by special operations forces, was flying in support of operations against Islamic State groups, the officials said. They said previous Russian harassment had complicated the strike against an ISIS leader earlier this month.
A “senior defense official” said the US is considering military options. He did not detail them, but said American forces will continue to fly on anti-ISIS missions.
With Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in trouble, Russia is stepping up cooperation and coordination with Iran and the Assad regime, trying to force the US to leave Syria. US officials say Russian military activity has escalated in intensity and aggression since March.
About 900 American forces are in the country, providing support for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the Kurdish-controlled northeast. Other troops and special forces enter for missions against the Islamic State.