“We Always Managed To Get Behind US-led Coalition Fighter Jets Encountered Over Syria” Cocky Russian Pilot Says

Dec 29 2017 - 129 Comments

“We always found ourselves ‘on their tails’ as the pilots say, which means victory in a dogfight.” Just the latest chapter of Russia’s hybrid warfare in Syria?

Close encounters between Russian and U.S. aircraft over Syria are nothing new. What’s new is the way this close-quarter Russian/U.S. shadow boxing incidents are reported from both sides: two incidents, one on November 23 and another one on December 13, made headlines in Russia and the U.S. with differing accounts of the nearly identical incidents and the reasons they happened.

For instance, dealing with the first one, according to the Russian version, a Sukhoi Su-35S was scrambled after a U.S. F-22 interfered with two Su-25s that were bombing an Islamic State target and chased the Raptor away. The Russian account was denied by the U.S. Central Command, that in an email to The Aviationist explained that there was no truth in the allegation:

“According to our flight logs for Nov 23, 2017, this alleged incident did not take place, nor has there been any instance where a Coalition aircraft crossed the river without first deconflicting with the Russians via the deconfliction phone line set up for this purpose. Of note, on Nov 23, 2017, there were approximately nine instances where Russian fighter aircraft crossed to the east side of the Euphrates River into Coalition airspace without first using the deconfliction phone. This random and unprofessional activity placed Coalition and Russian aircrew at risk, as well as jeopardizing Coalition ability to support partner ground forces in the area.”

Dealing with the second incident, U.S. officials told Fox News that a USAF F-22 Raptor stealth fighter flew in front of a pair of Russian Air Force Su-25 Frogfoot attack jets near Al Mayadin, Syria, “an area off-limits to Russian jets based on a long-standing mutual agreement”. In an attempt to force the Russian aircraft to change course, the American stealth jet cut across the front of the Russian jets, and released flares (a tactic known as ‘head-butting,’ meant to send a strong warning to an opposing warplane).

A Russian Flanker flying at MAKS 2017 (Jacek Siminski)

Needless to say, this time it was the Russians to deny the version of events: according to the Russian MoD the Su-25s were escorting a humanitarian convoy on the western side of the Eurphrates and it was the U.S. aircraft that crossed the deconfliction line. “A Russian Su-35 fighter jet, performing an air cover mission at an altitude of 10,000 meters, swiftly approached the F-22 from the rear, forcing the American aircraft to leave the area.”

“We saw anywhere from six to eight incidents daily in late November, where Russian or Syrian aircraft crossed into our airspace on the east side of the Euphrates River,” Lt. Col. Damien Pickart of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command told U.S. news outlet CNN recently. “It’s become increasingly tough for our pilots to discern whether Russian pilots are deliberately testing or baiting us into reacting, or if these are just honest mistakes.”

On Dec. 29, the state-run RT media outlet reported:

Russian pilots always managed to get behind US-led coalition fighter jets they encountered in the skies over Syria, a Russian ace said after receiving a state award from President Putin at the Kremlin.

When meeting our partners from the Western coalition in the air, we always found ourselves ‘on their tails’ as the pilots say, which means victory in a dogfight,” Russian Airspace Forces major, Maksim Makolin, said.

The so-called ‘lag pursuit’ when the nose of an attacking plane points at the tail of the opponent’s aircraft is considered the optimum location in an aerial fight. It allows the plane at the back a range of options, from increasing or maintaining range without overshooting to freely attacking, all the while remaining concealed in the blind spot behind the defending aircraft.

Makolin became one of the 14,000 Russian servicemen who received state decorations for their courage and professionalism during the two-year-long Russian campaign in Syria.

We have already discussed these close encounters, the tactical value of supermaneuverability vs stealthiness, the ROE, etc. In this case it’s only worth noticing there is no attempt to ease tensions, quite the contrary, as if certain statements were part of a hybrid warfare made of actual aircraft, as well as cyber warfare, proxy forces and propaganda. In this respect, if you are willing to learn more about “Russia’s campaign to mislead the public and undermine democratic institutions around the world,” I suggest you reading this report here.  “It reveals how the Russian government is conducting a major multi-pronged propaganda campaign to spread false information… […]”

Image credit: Dmitry Terekhov from Odintsovo, Russian Federation/Wiki

  • I don’t think there has been a single war where Russian planes ever came on top.

  • Yet, you would be here, crying and throwing hissy fits if the Raptors destroyed the Frogfoots and the Flankers.

    • Ilya Kurenkov

      But they didn’t, right?

      • Uniform223

        And if they did would you deny it or make excuses? Why hasn’t the “mighty” Su-35 and S300 stopped the Raptor and other US/coalition assets from flying into Syria? With that stance I could easily say the Russians and Syrians are failing in that regard.

      • So, you would have no problem if the Raptors destroyed a Russian plane? Because avoiding a diplomatic mess is more important than “feels good”.

        • Ilya Kurenkov

          So you do realize that American actions in Syrian skies lead to diplomatic mess? That’s good progress, really.

  • leroy

    Word!

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    The Russians were used against the Syrian population who rose in rebellion against their government. ISIS was an insurgent group from Iraq that was chased there by the Shia government in Iraq, and then tool over large portions of Syria and Iraq. The US focused on them.

    • Holztransistor

      More than 360,000 fighters in Syria were foreign mercenaries. Who exactly is your legitimate opposition?

  • Uniform223

    Dog fighting has dramatically changed

  • Uniform223

    And be it confirmed by other sources

  • Uniform223

    So you take and article and spin it for to own purpose, how typically Kremlin bot of you. That article doesn’t make a conclusion unlike you. If those frogfoots kept it up, eventually permission to engage would have been given. Then those Flankers would be engaged and shot down by another unseen Raptor. Thankfully though that did not happen. No need to shoot down another Russian aircraft and escalate things in an already tense and crowded airspace.

  • OR

    Over 100 comments discussing what exactly?.. I guess it is similar to some football fans forum.. a lot of competition without substance.. sad. On a side note sounds like re-introducing military Olimpic games will be very profitable)..

  • Håvard Larsen

    There exist several picture of Su-35S whom rotated home to Mainland Russia with kill marks under the cockpit glass. Surly not Amy jet fighter.. but plenty of Drones.. which goes for Aircraft.
    Just saying.

  • TocTeplv .

    Americans surely claim that – russian pilot didn’t call himself “ace”. American journalist did. And you, mister Mrsatyre, didn’t even notice it. What wrong with you, americans?

    • Superfamily Allosauridae

      Not an American journalist, a Russian State media program.