The Su-22 shot down represents the first air-to-air kill scored by a U.S. Navy aircraft since Operation Desert Storm and the first aerial victory credited to the F/A-18 Super Hornet
As reported by Reuters on Jun. 18, 2017, the Pentagon claimed that a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter bomber shot down a Syrian Sukhoi Su-22 in the southern Raqqa countryside after that the attack aircraft had dropped bombs near the U.S. backed forces.
By contrast Damascus says the plane was downed while flying a mission against Islamic State militants.
A Syrian army statement released on Syrian state television said the plane crashed and the pilot was missing. It said the incident took place on Sunday afternoon near a village called Rasafah.
The “flagrant attack was an attempt to undermine the efforts of the army as the only effective force capable with its allies … in fighting terrorism across its territory,” the Syrian army said.
“This comes at a time when the Syrian army and its allies were making clear advances in fighting the Daesh (Islamic State) terrorist group.”
Instead the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) claimed that the Syrian plane was downed “in collective self-defense of Coalition-partnered forces,” identified as fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near Tabqah.
The USCENTCOM statement said that “pro-Syrian regime forces” had earlier attacked an SDF held town south of Tabqa wounding a number of fighters and driving them from the town.
At this point as told by Reuters, coalition aircraft in a show of force stopped the initial advance. When a Syrian army Su-22 jet later dropped bombs near the U.S. backed forces, it was immediately shot by a U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet, the statement said.
However before downing the plane, the coalition had “contacted the its Russian counterparts by telephone via an established “de-confliction line” to de-escalate the situation and stop the firing.”
The coalition does “not seek to fight the Syrian regime, Russian or pro-regime forces” but would not “hesitate to defend itself or its “partnered forces from any threat,” the statement said.
Noteworthy this incident comes just ten days after a U.S. Air Force (USAF) F-15E Strike Eagle shot down a “pro-Syria regime” unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that was attacking U.S.-backed fighters in southern Syria.
Moreover the Su-22 shot down represents the first air-to-air kill scored by a U.S. Navy aircraft since Operation Desert Storm (ODS). During ODS in fact two F/A-18C Hornets belonging to VFA-81 Sunliners downed two Iraqis Chengdu F-7As (the chinese version of the MiG-21 Fishbed) on Jan. 17, 1991, and an F-14A Tomcat from VF-1 Wolfpack shot down an Iraqi Mi-8 helicopter on Feb. 6, 1991.
Furthermore this aerial victory is also the first ever aerial victory credited to the F/A-18 Super Hornet. Since USS George H.W. Bush is the only American aircraft carrier operating in the region, therefore, the Super Hornet is either from VFA-31 or VFA-87.
Here’s the Russian MOD statement about the incident.
Statement of the Russian Defence Ministry concerning downing of the Syrian Su-22 near the town of Resafa
On June 18, 2017 the American fighter F-18A belonging to the international coalition shot down the Su-22 aircraft of the Syrian Air Force, which was performing a combat mission supporting the government troops, which were conducting the offensive against the ISIS terrorists near the town of Resafa (40 km to the south-west of the city of Raqqa).
As a result of the attack, the Syrian aircraft was destroyed. The pilot baled out over an ISIS-controlled area, his status is unknown.
The destruction of the aircraft of the Syrian Air Force by the American aviation in the air space of Syria – is a cynical violation of the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic.
Numerous combat activities of the US aviation carried out under the cover of “fight against terrorism” aimed against the legitimate Armed Forces of a UN-member is a blatant breach of the international law and is in fact an act of military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.
Moreover, at that time the aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces were also performing combat missions in the air space of Syria. However, the Command of the coalition forces did not use the existing channels of communication between the Command of the Al Udeid Air Base (Qatar) and the Hmeymim Air Base Command to prevent air incidents in the air space of Syria.
The Russian party considers those actions of the US Command as an intentional failure to fulfill its obligations within the Memorandum on prevention of incidents and providing of flight security during the operations in Syria dated October 20, 2015.
Since June 19, 2017, the Russian Defence Ministry has stopped the cooperation with the American party within the Memorandum on prevention of incidents and providing of flight security during the operations in Syria and demands a thorough investigation of the incident by the US Command with further providing of information on its results and the taken measures.
In the combat mission zones of the Russian aviation in the air space of Syria, all kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs of the international coalition detected to the west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets.
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com