As reported by CNN Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, Commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, recently took a teleconference call with reporters back in the U.S. where he said a fighter jet from Russia had perform a barrel-roll over a U.S. Air Force (USAF) KC-10 Extender while both aircraft were flying in Syria.
Harrigian said Russia apologized after the incident was reported via official channels.
“We had one incident where there was an intercept they ran that I would categorize as unprofessional, and we called them on it and expressed our concern,” Harrigian said, adding, “they came back, quite frankly, and apologized for that particular intercept.”
However Harrigian explained that the coalition has been able to de-conflict with the Russians and that the one here reported was the only incident in recent months where there were any “issues.”
“We have found ways to appropriately de-conflict to allow us to continue our mission. I think that it’s important to highlight that the Russians are understanding of what we’re trying to do,” Harrigian pointed out.
According to Harrigian the de-confliction efforts with the Russians have ramped up given the “tighter airspace” and need to avoid “strategic miscalculation” in Syria.
Actually even though they are targeting different groups on the ground, US-led coalition, Russian and regime aircraft have recently found themselves flying in increasingly close proximity in eastern Syria as the battle on the ground there has intensified.
As explained by CNN since the increased pace and scale of military operations in Syria, U.S. and Russia have set up a series of “de-confliction zones” that delineate areas of operation for the coalition and the Russian forces to avoid that their respective personnel are targeted by mistake. This despite the fact that U.S. military is prohibited by law from coordinating directly with the Russian military.
“I’m ever-cognizant of the need to avoid an action that could result in a strategic miscalculation. We have had to increase the amount of de-confliction work we’re doing with the Russians given the tighter airspace,” Harrigian said.
Harrigian concluded acknowledging that he has personally piloted an F-22 fighter jet over Syria as part of an effort to get a better understanding of what he called “a complex, dynamic environment for air operations.”
Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Andy M. Kin and Louis Briscese / U.S. Air Force
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