U.S. Fighter Jets Fired Warning Shots at Russian Planes Flying Over Syrian Airspace

December 15, 2017, 3:22 PM UTC
An F-22A Raptor from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., flies over the Nevada Test and Training Range during Red Flag 15-3 at Nellis AFB, Nev., July 31, 2015.
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase

U.S. forces fired warning shots at Russian aircraft Wednesday after a pair of Russian Su-25 aircraft crossed into U.S. coalition airspace over Syria.

The tense 40-minute encounter saw American military firing flares and chaff, metal clouds that are designed to confuse enemy radars, to warn the Russian fighters to move away. According to the Pentagon, one of the U.S. pilots had to pull an aggressive maneuver to avoid a mid-air collision. At one point, one of the U.S. F-22s shadowed one of the Russian Su-25 aircraft.

Encounters like this are occurring more often recently, despite agreements between the countries to avoid this very scenario. Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman, tells the Washington Post that Russians have flown into coalition airspace six to eight times a day, which accounts for about 10% of all Russian and Syrian flights. (Russia agreed in November to keep its aircraft west of the Euphrates river.)

The encounter happened days after Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to scale back air operations in Syria. The Pentagon, at the time, was skeptical of the claims.