Moscow ‘intercepts’ US stealth jet
RUSSIAN state media claims its air force has 'clashed' with one of the United States' most advanced fighter aircraft operating over Syria.
The unverified report claims two Russian Su-25 strike fighters were assigned to a bombing mission against a base on the west of the Eurphrates River on November 23.
But an advanced US F-22 Raptor reportedly attempted to intervene.
"The F-22 launched decoy flares and used airbrakes while constantly manoeuvring [near the Russian strike jets], imitating an air fight," Sputnik quotes defence ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov as saying.
The F-22 reportedly broke away when a Russian Su-35S interceptor was scrambled to come to the assistance of the Su-25 strike aircraft.
"After the appearance of a Russian multifunctional super maneuverable Su-35S fighter, the American fighter stopped dangerous maneuvers and hurried to move into Iraqi airspace," he said.
An American F-22 fighter actively prevented the Russian pair of Su-25 attack aircraft from carrying out a combat mission to destroy the ISIS stronghold in the suburbs of the city of Mayadin on Nov 23— Russia in USA 🇷🇺 (@RusEmbUSA) December 9, 2017
Moscow claims the base was occupied by Islamic State fighters. But it and Syria have come into conflict with Coalition forces in the past for attacking Western-backed, anti Syrian President Assad, militias.
"Most close-midair encounters between Russian and US jets in the area around the Euphrates River have been linked to the attempts of US aircraft to get in the way [of the Russian warplanes] striking against Islamic State terrorists," Major Konashenkov said.
The Pentagon, which is yet to respond to reports of this incident, has recently complained of what it calls Russian "unsafe behaviour".
"We saw anywhere from six to eight incidents daily in late November, where Russian or Syrian aircraft crossed into our airspace on the east side of the Euphrates River," a US Air Force Central Command spokesman told US media.
"It's becoming increasingly tough for our pilots to discern whether Russian pilots are deliberately testing or baiting us into reacting, or if these are just honest mistakes ... The greatest concern is that we could shoot down a Russian aircraft because its actions are seen as a threat to our air or ground forces."
But Major Konashenkov rejected outright that the US and Coalition air forces have any right to Syrian airspace - despite previously negotiated agreements dividing the fractured country into areas of operations against Islamic State to avoid accidental clashes.
Claims that "any part of the airspace in Syria that belongs to the US" are "puzzling," Major Konashenkov said. "Syria is a sovereign state and a UN member and that means that there … can be no US airspace 'of its own.' Unlike the Russian Air Force, the US-led coalition is operating in Syria without any legal basis".
Russian media states the US Coalition force of 70 nations had been engaged in air and ground activity in Syria since 2014 withouth 'authorisation' by Syrian President Bashar assad or the United Nations.
Konashenkov said use of a hotline intended to de-escalate conflict between Russian and Coalition forces has become "contentious", with the US only rarely sharing its intended targets and activities. The US, in turn, accuses Russian and Syrian aircraft of 'threatening' flying and not turning on their transponder beacons to highlight their location.