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An American MQ-9 Reaper drone was damaged after an encounter with a Russian fighter jet over Syria on Sunday, the US Air Forces Central Command reported on Tuesday. This incident marks the latest in a series of confrontations deemed dangerous and provocative by military officials.

The Reaper drone was engaged in a counter-terrorism operation against the Islamic State group when it was aggressively approached by a Russian aircraft. In a statement, Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich said, “On 23 July, 2023 at 12:23 a.m. (EST) Russian fighter aircraft flew dangerously close to a US MQ-9 drone on a defeat-ISIS mission, harassing the MQ-9 and deploying flares from a position directly overhead, with only a few meters of separation between aircraft.” The assault resulted in a flare striking and “severely damaging its propeller.” Grynkewich condemned the Russian fighter’s lack of regard for flight safety and called for an immediate end to such reckless actions.

Despite the damage inflicted, the crew remotely piloting the MQ-9 managed to retain control and guide the aircraft back to its base. This occurrence follows a series of recent escalating “unsafe and unprofessional” incidents. In one such episode last week, a Russian Su-35 fighter created a dangerous situation for a US MC-12 manned aircraft, forcing it to navigate through its wake turbulence, thereby compromising the crew’s ability to operate safely.

The Russian pilots have also been reported to drop parachute flares in the path of US MQ-9 Reaper drones on multiple occasions, prompting the drones to take evasive maneuvers. These incidents have not been confined to Syria, with a similar clash taking place over the Black Sea in March, where a Russian fighter collided with a US drone, forcing it to crash off the coast of Ukraine.


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