Pentagon: Russian fighter jets approached US and Coalition aircraft over Syria 7 times in August – at times within 1,000 feet

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Russian fighter aircraft approached US F-35 fighter jets and other Coalition aircraft over Syria on seven occasions during the month of August and in several instances flew within 1,000 feet, the Pentagon said Friday.

Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, said the Russian jets’ actions were “unsafe and unprofessional,” adding that the Russian fighters flew in “aggressive maneuvers, several of which were inside 1,000 feet.”

The unsafe maneuvers, Ryder said, “increase the risk of miscalculation and are not reflective of the behavior we’d expect from a professional air force.” The most recent unsafe maneuvers took place on August 25, according to the Pentagon.

Over the last several years, the US and Russia have used a deconfliction line between the two militaries in Syria to avoid unintentional mistakes or encounters that can inadvertently lead to escalation. Still, Russian pilots have a history of interacting with US and Coalition aircraft in unsafe manners.

In April, US Central Command said Russian pilots tried to “dogfight” US jets over Syria – adding at the time to a pattern of more aggressive behavior. In military aviation, dogfighting is engaging in aerial combat, often at relatively close ranges.

A video released by US Central Command from April 2 showed a Russian SU-35 fighter jet conducting an “unsafe and unprofessional” intercept of a US F-16 fighter jet. A second video from April 18 showed a Russian fighter that violated coalition airspace and came within 2,000 feet of a US aircraft, a distance a fighter jet can cover in a matter of seconds.

A US official previously told CNN that the Russian pilots did not appear in those cases to be trying to shoot down American jets, but they may have been trying to “provoke” the US and “draw us into an international incident.”

Ryder on Friday called on Russia “to cease this reckless activity.”

“We call on the Russian Air Force to cease this reckless activity, but regardless will continue to remain focused on our mission to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS,” he said.

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