F-22s intercept Russian fighters over Syria; fire warning flares

A pair of Air Force F-22 Raptors intercepted two Russian Su-25s in tightly contested airspace over Syria, firing warning flares at one point as the jets flew along the Euphrates River on Wednesday.

The Russian planes had crossed an agreed-up deconfliction line that runs along the river. The U.S. and partner forces in Syria, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, operate on the east side of the river. It’s a region that Russian forces and their Syrian government allies are to steer clear of.

“On December 13, two Russian Su-25s flew into coordinated Coalition airspace on the east side of the Euphrates River near Abu Kamal, Syria, and were promptly intercepted by two F-22A Raptors providing air cover for partner ground forces conducting operations to defeat ISIS,” said Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a spokesman for U.S. Air Forces Central Command.

The F-22s maneuvered and fired warning flares and chaff to warn off the pair of Russian fighters, he said.

“At one point, one Su-25 flew close enough to an F-22A that it had to aggressively maneuver to avoid a midair collision,” Pickart said. “During the incident, a Russian Su-35 also flew across the river and was shadowed closely by one of the F-22As.”

The contact lasted about 40 minutes, Air Force officials said. The U.S. used a special hotline designed to deconflict ground and air operations with Russian forces to convey their concern over the incident.

“Since agreeing to this deconfliction arrangement, the Russians have flown into our airspace on the east side of the river six to eight times per day, or approximately 10 percent of the Russian and Syrian flights,” Pickart said.

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Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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