USA planes fire flares at Russian fighter jets in Syria

Syria war: US and Russian jets spar over Syria

A United States official stated on Thursday that F-22 fighter aircraft fired warning flares to chase Russian Su-25 jets away from the airspace over the so-called de-confliction zone that was agreed upon by Washington and Moscow.

The incident involving Russian and United States aircraft has taken place in the Syrian airspace east of the Euphrates river, according to the Washington Examiner.

A Su-35 fighter jet, which provided cover for the Russian planes, "rapidly approached" the F-22 from the rear and the U.S. warplane left the area afterward, the ministry added.

In recent months, Russian jets have increasingly flown in restricted areas in eastern Syria, violating long established agreements with the US -led coalition. During the incident, one of the US warplanes also was forced to perform a risky maneuver to avoid a mid-air collision with one of the Su-25s.

Last month, American and Russian officials established a 45-mile line along the Euphrates River in an effort to avoid potential encounters in the air, according to the Pentagon.

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"The greatest concern is that we could shoot down a Russian aircraft because its actions are seen as a threat to our ground forces", USAF spokesman Lt. Col Damien Pickart told CNN.

Pickart added that one Su-25 flew close enough to an F-22A that it had to "aggressively maneuver to avoid a midair collision". After 40 minutes, the Russians flew back to the west side of the Euphrates.

This is the most serious such incident involving Russian and USA planes over Syria, BBC Defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus says. However, he said, the coalition would defend itself or SDF fighters if they were threatened. Pickart said Russian jets fly into US airspace in the de-confliction area 6 to 8 times per day. Since the agreement, Russians have flown east of the river six to eight times a day, which is about 10 percent of all Russian and Syrian flights, he said.

Thursday's incident comes after a surprise visit to a Russian airbase in Syria from Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, during which he announced a partial withdrawal of Russian troops from the country.

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