By DoD News
By Joseph Clark
Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said that the U.S. mission to defeat ISIS remains undeterred by Russia’s recent harassment of U.S. aircraft operating in Syria.
His remarks were in response to an unsafe engagement on Wednesday in which Russian SU-35 fighter aircraft harassed three U.S. MQ-9 drones conducting a mission against ISIS targets.
Ryder condemned the interaction as “clearly unprofessional and unsafe behavior on the part of the Russians.”
“You’ve heard us say before that our focus in Syria is purely on the defeat ISIS mission and that will continue to be our focus,” he said. “Like [U.S. Air Forces Central], we call on the Russian forces to cease this type of reckless behavior and behave like professional airmen.”
During the interaction, the Russian pilots dropped multiple parachute flares in front of the drones, forcing the U.S. aircraft to conduct evasive maneuvers. One Russian pilot also engaged their aircraft’s afterburner while positioned in front one of the MQ-9s, reducing the U.S. operator’s ability to safely operate the drone.
Following Ryder’s remarks, U.S. Air Forces Central reported a separate interaction occurring today in which Russian aircraft again harassed U.S. MQ-9s over Syria.
During the latest incident, the Russian SU-34 and SU-35 aircraft released flares in the flight path of the MQ-9 and flew dangerously close to the aircraft, endangering the safety of all involved.
“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,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central.
Grynkewich again called on Russian forces 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.”
“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,” he said. “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.”