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After Russia harasses US drones over Syria for 2nd day, Air Force responds: ‘Cease this reckless behavior’

Russian fighter jets harassed United States Air Force drones over Syria for a second time in 24 hours, U.S. Air Forces Central said Thursday.

A new video released Thursday showed the Russian aircraft flying dangerously close to and deploying flares near several U.S. drones. It was released the day after the U.S. military released similar footage on Wednesday.

“Russian military aircraft engaged in unsafe and unprofessional behavior Thursday, 9:30 A.M. local time, while interacting with U.S. MQ-9 drones carrying out our D-ISIS mission in Syria,” said Lt Gen Alexus Grynkewich, Commander, 9th AF and CFACC for CENTCOM. “Russian aircraft dropped flares in front of the drones and flew dangerously close, endangering the safety of all aircraft involved.”

“This is the second instance of dangerous behaviors by Russian pilots within the past 24 hours, with the first happening Wednesday at approximately 10:40 A.M. local time,” said Lt Gen Alexus Grynkewich, Commander, 9th AF and CFACC for CENTCOM.

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Russian aircraft

Russian aircraft conducted several maneuvers near U.S. drones flying over Syria on Thursday, July 6, 2023. (US Air Force)

The videos from consecutive days show Russian SU-35 fighters moving into the flight path of the U.S.-operated drone, forcing the MQ-9 Reapers to take evasive maneuvers.

“In that instance, Russian jets launched parachute flares at the drones and traveled dangerously close to the drones, forcing U.S. pilots to perform evasive maneuvers,” Grynkewich said.

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He added: “These events represent another example of unprofessional and unsafe actions by Russian air forces operating in Syria, which threaten the safety of both Coalition and Russian forces.”

Parachute flares

In this image from video released by the U.S. Air Force, parachute flares, that according to the U.S. Air Force, released by a Russian SU-35 are visible near a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone on Wednesday, July 5, 2023, over Syria.  (U.S. Air Force via AP)

The U.S. military has also urged Russian forces in Syria to “cease this reckless behavior and adhere to the standards of behavior expected of a professional air force, so we can resume our focus on the enduring defeat of ISIS,” he said.

“The U.S. Air Forces Central remains committed to ensuring the safety and security of its personnel and assets and continues to work closely with partners and allies to address these incidents and prevent any escalation of tensions in the region,” Grynkewich added. “The safety of military personnel and the success of the mission against ISIS depend on the professional and responsible conduct of all forces operating in the region.”

He did not provide specific information on their mission.

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A plane over Syria

In this image from video released by the U.S. Air Force, a Russian SU-35 flies near a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone on Wednesday, July 5, 2023, over Syria.  (U.S. Air Force via AP)

On Wednesday, Grynkewich said one of the Russian pilots moved their aircraft in front of a drone and engaged its afterburner, which greatly increased air pressure in the immediate area of the drone, reducing the drone operator’s ability to safely operate the aircraft.

Army Gen. Erik Kurilla, head of U.S. Central Command, said Wednesday that Russia’s actions over Syria “increases the risk of escalation or miscalculation.”

A sunset in Syria

Sunset near the Syrian-Turkish border, in the village of Deirbalout, northwest of Syria, on July 6, 2023  (Rami Alsayed/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The U.S. maintains a force of about 900 troops deployed in Syria. They primarily work with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in their struggle against Islamic State militants.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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