The F-15E shot down the drone after the Iranian-made UAV dropped a munition near Syrian fighters who were accompanied at the time by advisers from the American-led coalition
As reported by The New York Times a U.S. Air Force (USAF) F-15E Strike Eagle fighter bomber shot down a “pro-Syria regime” drone on Jun. 8, 2017 after the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacked U.S.-backed fighters in southern Syria, the American military said.
The accident occurred when the drone, which according to U.S. officials appeared to be Iranian-made, dropped a munition near Syrian fighters, who were accompanied at the time by advisers from the American-led coalition.
The ordnance missed, and the F-15E shot down the drone, which was similar in size to an American Predator and was still armed with other weapons.
Noteworthy the area in southeastern Syria is becoming increasingly crowded since Iranian-backed militias (which include the Lebanese group Hezbollah) have moved to extend their reach to try to seize the area around the city of Deir al-Zour, which has been held by the Islamic State.
Iranian-backed militias push eastward has brought them into proximity with American-backed Syrian fighters, who are being trained to battle the Islamic State and are operating out of a garrison at al-Tanf, a Syrian town close to the intersection of the Syrian, Iraqi and Jordanian borders.
Tensions in southeastern Syria have been running high, but the drone episode was the first time that pro-government forces there had fired on the American-backed fighters and their coalition advisers.
“That was the first time that we saw them actually firing or shooting at coalition forces,” said Col. Ryan Dillon, the spokesman for the American-led task force that is fighting the Islamic State.
However the U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, clarified that its aim is focusing on fighting the Islamic State and is not looking for a confrontation with the Assad government — or with the Russian and Iranian-backed forces that are supporting it.
“The coalition’s mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” the Central Command said. “The coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian or pro-regime forces partnered with them. The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces near coalition and partner forces in southern Syria, however, continue to concern us, and the coalition will take appropriate measures to protect our forces.”
However this drone-shot down marks also the second air-to-air victory for the iconic F-15E.
The first Strike Eagle air-to-air kill in fact was scored during Operation Desert Storm, on Feb. 14, 1991 when an F-15E shot down an Iraqi Mil Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter.
This episode occurred while two F-15Es were responding to a request for help by U.S. Special Forces, five Iraqi helicopters were spotted. The lead Strike Eagle acquired a helicopter via its FLIR in the process of unloading Iraqi soldiers, and released a GBU-10 bomb. The F-15E crew thought the bomb had missed its target and were preparing to use a Sidewinder missile when the helicopter was destroyed. The Special Forces team estimated that the Hind was roughly 800 feet (240 m) over the ground when the 2,000 lb (910 kg) bomb hit its target.
As Coalition bombing operation had commenced, the F-15Es disengaged from combat with the remaining helicopters.
Photo credit: Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt and Airman 1st Class Christopher Maldonado / U.S. Air Force
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com