Navy Super Hornet from Carrier Air Wing 8 Scores Victory over Syrian Su-22.
Updated with the statement from the Russian MoD.
A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet from Carrier Air Wing 8 on board the USS George Bush shot down a Syrian Air Force Su-22 ground attack aircraft near Raqqa, Syria after the aircraft struck ground troops in Ja-Din, south of Tabqah, near Raqqa.
According to most sources it is the first time a U.S. combat aircraft has shot down a manned enemy aircraft in aerial combat in nine years.
The pro-Assad regime Syrian Su-22 that was downed had attacked Syrian Democratic Forces aligned with the U.S. led coalition and inflicted casualties on the friendly forces as they were driving south of Tabqah before it was intercepted.
The action began at approximately 4:30 PM local time on Sunday, Jun. 18 when Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad launched a ground attack on anti-regime Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) aligned with the U.S. led Coalition and inflicted casualties on the anti-Assad fighters.
Coalition combat aircraft immediately conducted a low-altitude “show of force” pass on the pro-Assad attackers and were successful in de-conflicting the two sides and halting the advance of pro-Assad forces on Coalition-friendly SDF positions.
As a result of the contact unspecified Coalition assets utilized a secure communication “de-confliction line” to contact Russian assets with communications to both sides in an effort to compel a cease-fire for both sides.
The Russian attempt at de-confliction failed at 6:43 PM local time when a pro-Assad Syrian Air Force Su-22 ground attack aircraft appeared on scene and bombed Coalition-friendly SDF positions. The attacking Syrian Su-22 was “Immediately shot down by a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet” according to an official statement issued by the Combined Joint Task Force, Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. Navy F/A-18E was launched from the aircraft carrier USS George Bush (CVN-77) as it maintains patrol in the Mediterranean in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
In the official statement released from the Coalition about the incident the Combined Joint Task Force stated, “The Coalition’s mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The Coalition does not seek to fight the Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend Coalition partner forces from any threat.”
Even though the air-to-air victory would be the first for the U.S. on a manned enemy combat aircraft since February 2008 according to some sources, the last confirmed U.S. kill dates back to 1999, during Operation Allied Force, when a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon shot down a Serbian MiG-29 Fulcrum. A U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle shot down an unmanned Iranian-made Shahed-129 armed drone on Thursday, June 8 this year.
The U.S. destroyed nine Syrian Air Force aircraft in a large Tomahawk cruise missile strike on the Shayrat Air Base earlier this year on April 7, 2017. Among the Syrian Air Force air craft destroyed by the cruise missile attack were five Su-22M3s, one Su-22M4, and three MiG-23ML aircraft. The attack was a Coalition response to the alleged Syrian chemical weapons strike on Khan Shaykhun on April 4. At least 74 people died in the chemical attack with hundreds more wounded, including children.
The action over Syria marks a significant escalation in the conflict and establishes the resolve of the Coalition to achieve its goals in the region in addition to sending a clear message that the control of the airspace rests with the Coalition and not with Assad’s remaining forces.
And here’s the response to the downing from the Russian MoD:
Statement of the Russian Defence Ministry concerning downing of the Syrian Su-22 near the town of Resafa
On June 18, 2017 the American fighter F-18A belonging to the international coalition shot down the Su-22 aircraft of the Syrian Air Force, which was performing a combat mission supporting the government troops, which were conducting the offensive against the ISIS terrorists near the town of Resafa (40 km to the south-west of the city of Raqqa).
As a result of the attack, the Syrian aircraft was destroyed. The pilot baled out over an ISIS-controlled area, his status is unknown.
The destruction of the aircraft of the Syrian Air Force by the American aviation in the air space of Syria – is a cynical violation of the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic.
Numerous combat activities of the US aviation carried out under the cover of “fight against terrorism” aimed against the legitimate Armed Forces of a UN-member is a blatant breach of the international law and is in fact an act of military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.
Moreover, at that time the aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces were also performing combat missions in the air space of Syria. However, the Command of the coalition forces did not use the existing channels of communication between the Command of the Al Udeid Air Base (Qatar) and the Hmeymim Air Base Command to prevent air incidents in the air space of Syria.
The Russian party considers those actions of the US Command as an intentional failure to fulfill its obligations within the Memorandum on prevention of incidents and providing of flight security during the operations in Syria dated October 20, 2015.
Since June 19, 2017, the Russian Defence Ministry has stopped the cooperation with the American party within the Memorandum on prevention of incidents and providing of flight security during the operations in Syria and demands a thorough investigation of the incident by the US Command with further providing of information on its results and the taken measures.
In the combat mission zones of the Russian aviation in the air space of Syria, all kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs of the international coalition detected to the west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets.
Therefore, the Russians will “track” as air targets the US-led coalition aircraft of all types: although this seems to suggest a unilateral NFZ established over Syria, the public release does not say they will “engage” the coaltion planes.
Let’s see what happens next.