US F-22s intercept Russian fighters over Syria
- Pete Mitchell
The flares were fired "in close proximity" to the Russian aircraft and the US pilots also radioed the Russians multiple times on an emergency channel telling them to leave, the Pentagon said. Their statements go on to claim that the F-22 was attempting to prevent the Su-25s from continuing their runs by "simulating" a dog fight.
The agreement on the so-called de-escalation zones was signed by Russia, Turkey and Iran in May.
Pickart accused the Russian pilots of risky flying during the encounter.
"One Su-25 flew close enough to an F-22A that it had to aggressively maneuver to avoid a midair collision", he told CNN, adding that "during the incident, a Russian Su-35 also flew across the river and was shadowed closely by one of the F-22As".
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The incident took place Wednesday, east of the Euphrates River, the official said.
"The F-22 launched decoy flares and used airbrakes while constantly maneuvering [near the Russian strike jets], imitating an air fight" before it was chased away, Konashenkov said.
While the USA and Russian Federation have expressed a shared interest in driving ISIS fighters out of Syria, the two powers are on opposite sides of Syria's civil war, with Moscow throwing its support behind Syrian President President Bashar al-Assad and the US supporting rebel fighters.
USA commanders told The New York Times earlier this month, however, that the Russians have violated the agreement half a dozen times. The incident lasted for about 40 minutes and coalition officials contacted the Russians through a communication link to avoid a miscalculation.
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"If either of us needs to cross the river for any reason, we're supposed to first de-conflict via the line".
Pickart said the USA and other coalition forces remain focused on destroying ISIS, which has lost some 98 percent of the territory it once controlled in Syria and Iraq. According to the spokesman, since the Russians are now crossing the river six to eight times a day, "it's become increasingly tough for our pilots to discern whether Russian pilots' actions are deliberate or if these are just honest mistakes".
Officials have said recently that coalition aircraft - more than a dozen air forces cooperating to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria - are concerned about the shrinking airspace.
America's top military officer, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, spoke on the phone last week with his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, according to a spokesman for the Joint Staff.
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