KUWAIT CITY, A Russian fighter plane flew dangerously close to a U.S. plane over eastern Syria, U.S. defense officials said Friday.
The incident on Oct. 17 involved a Russian fighter plane escorting a larger surveillance plane in “the middle of the night,” Lt. Gen. Jeff Harrigan, commander of the U.S. Air Force Central Command said. He added he suspected the Russian pilot could not locate the U.S. plane in the dark, and that they passed “inside of a half a mile” of each other.
“I think it’s important to recognize this one got our attention. We called the Russians about it and made sure they knew we were concerned. They didn’t have the situational awareness to know how close some of our airplanes were.”
Another U.S. military official commented, “It was close enough you could feel the jet wash [air turbulence] of the plane passing by.”
Harrigan noted a similar situation, of Russian and U.S. planes in near-miss proximity over Syria, has occurred roughly once every ten days.
Russia flies constant air patrols over Syria, most over the city of Aleppo, and routinely passes through airspace in which planes of the U.S.-led coalition can be found, officials said. The Pentagon regularly points out examples of unsafe or unprofessional behavior in air operations.