A pair of United States stealth jet fighters came across a pair of Russian fighter jets over Syrian airspace. The Russian jets became an issue when they headed east of the designated “de-confliction line” which is an invisible barrier separating United States and Russian aircraft activities in Syria.
The United States planes launched their warning flares after catching the Russian jets repeatedly cross into the US side of the operations zone. Officials revealed that this encounter lasted several minutes in the air.
The Russian jets were intercepted by two United States F-22A Raptor aircraft that were at the time assisting ground forces in a battle against ISIS.
A US Air Force spokesman told the media that the United States jets carried out several cautionary air manoeuvres to hint to the Russian aircraft they were flying outside of their designated operations area. These manoeuvres involved using flares quite close to the Russian aircraft and making repeated attempts to contact Russian officials over the pre-established hotline.
The spokesperson pointed out that the Russian pilots were flying recklessly and almost caused a mid-air collision with the American planes.
The spokesperson confirmed the incident lasted around 40 minutes in the air before the Russian jets finally returned to their side of the river. It required US officials to directly contact Russian commanders to make sure the situation did not become hostile.
During the recent APEC conference in Vietnam both US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin said they were going to work together to keep the current arrangements regarding military activity over Syria intact.
This agreement stated it would maintain open communication between the US and Russia in order to keep both forces safe and focused against the ISIS objective.
Despite this the Air Force spokesperson said that Russia had routinely violated these agreements and was concerned this continued behaviour could cause an unwanted clash between aircraft.
Despite verbal agreements between US-led coalition and Russian commanders for each party to remain on their respective side of the Euphrates River, the spokesperson said that Russia had entered on to wrong side of the river in at least 10 percent of their flights.
The spokesperson went on to say that arrangements were made so that if either side needed to cross the river, there were channels to easily negotiate it. He said that it was becoming more difficult for US pilots to tell if the Russians were continuing to make mistakes of were crossing the river deliberately.
It was also stated that the United States feared having to shoot down a Russian jet because it was perceived as a threat to coalition operations.