Two U.S. officials claim Russian fighter jets are stalking American predator drones over Syria.
“The first time it happened, we thought the Russians got lucky. Then it happened two more times,” one official explained to FOX News.
Both said the “MQ-1 Predator drone is not a stealth aircraft.” It is, they said, “easy” to see it on radar.
The Russian jets did not attempt to “shoot down” the drone, “but instead have flown ‘intercept tracks.’” This means the Russian fighters “flew close enough to make their presence felt.”
FOX News reports:
This development comes as Russia has moved some of its Mi-24 gunships and transport helicopters from an air base along the Mediterranean to another air base outside Homs, roughly 100 miles away. Russian ground forces, hundreds of Russian marines–as well as four BM-30 Smerch rocket launchers capable of firing cluster munitions, mines as well as high explosive warheads–are now in position to strike, but there is no evidence they have done so according to multiple defense officials. Infantry fighting vehicles and more a conventional artillery battery has also been seen by the intelligence community.
On Thursday, Lt. Gen. Charles Brown informed CBS News that Russian aircraft flew too close to American aircraft on the Turkey-Syria border.
“The closest has been within a handful of miles of our remotely piloted aircraft,” he said. “But to our manned aircraft they’ve not been closer than about 20 miles.”
Brown remains optimistic about the clashing air campaigns. He believes Russia will not force out the American planes in Syria.
“We’re up a lot more often than [the Russians] are so when we do have to move around [them] for safe operation, it’s for a small period of time compared to the hours and hours that we’re airborne over Iraq and Syria,” he said.
Russia is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s strongest ally, with Iran close behind. Russian officials claim to want to eliminate the radical Islamic groups active in Syria, but insist Assad needs to be a part of the solution. The U.S., along with the majority of the world, disagree with this assessment.
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook explained the U.S. is still willing to hold more talks with Russia about the conflict in Syria. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin met for over 90 minutes on September 28 after both spoke at the UN General Assembly. Putin described the meeting as “very constructive” and “surprisingly open.” But a White House correspondent said the men “disagreed on the role Syrian President Bashar Assad will have in resolving the civil conflict there.”
Russia received extreme backlash from the international community when they began their offensive against Assad’s enemies. They claimed they target the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), but insiders told Reuters the jets bombed places not held by the radical Islamic group.
“The Russians carried out only one half or at best a quarter of the strikes they claim to have conducted,” declared one senior military official.