Air Force says Russia made up an incident over Syria between an F-22 and an Su-35 in response to a critical NYT story

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor, 49th Fighter Wing, Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., flies over the Nevada Test and Training Range for a training mission.

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A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor, 49th Fighter Wing, Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., flies over the Nevada Test and Training Range for a training mission.
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Flickr/US Air Force

  • Russian Defense Ministry accused the US on Saturday of interfering with Russian bombing runs on ISIS positions in Syria, citing an example between an F-22 and an Su-35.
  • The US Air Force denies the allegations, and said they were only in response to US accusations of Russian fighters flying unsafely.
  • Russia did not provide additional examples of US fighters flying unsafely, and the US flight and call logs show no record of the F-22 and Su-35 incident ever happening.

The Russian Defense Ministry accused the US on Saturday of interfering with Russian bombing runs on ISIS positions in Syria.

Russia described an alleged November 23 incident during which an F-22 Raptor maneuvered dangerously near two Su-25s before an Su-35 chased it away.

But the US Air Force denies the incident ever happened and says it likely came in response to a critical article in The New York Times.

“It’s interesting the Russians didn’t raise these unfounded allegations until a New York Times article publicly exposed a serious matter the Coalition has tried diligently to address daily via the deconfliction line,” an Air Force official told Business Insider in an email on Tuesday.

“Had an F-22 actually flown across the river into their deconflicted airspace, the Russians would have raised this on the call and it would have been discussed. Coalition deconfliction call transcripts show no such incident ever transpired,” the official said.

The Air Force accused Russian fighter jets of flying dangerously close to US jets multiple times over Syria in November in a Times article published last Friday. In one instance, the Air Force said two A-10 Warthogs almost collided head-on with an Su-24 flying in Coalition airspace.

Last month, the US and Russia agreed to stay on opposite sides of a 45-mile stretch along the Euphrates River to avoid accidents in the skies as they both conduct bombing runs on remaining ISIS fighters.

A Sukhoi SU-35 fighter aircraft participates in a flying display during the 50th Paris Air Show at the Le Bourget airport near Paris, June 23, 2013.

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A Sukhoi SU-35 fighter aircraft participates in a flying display during the 50th Paris Air Show at the Le Bourget airport near Paris, June 23, 2013.
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REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

The US and Russia are also supposed to call the other side on a “deconfliction line” – which was set up two years ago to further avoid collisions – to let them know if they ever need to cross over.

“We’ve had contentious calls,” Col. Jeff Hogan told the Times, describing conversations with Russian officials on the deconfliction line.

“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 told CNN on Saturday.

“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,” Pickart also told the Times.

Russia responds

In response to these US Air Force allegations, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov told Russian media on Saturday that “most close-midair encounters between Russian and US jets in the area around the Euphrates River have been linked to the attempts of US aircraft to get in the way [of the Russian warplanes] striking against Islamic State terrorists.”

Konashenkov also accused the US of operating in Syria illegally, as the UN Security Council has never passed a resolution allowing the US to use force in Syria.

To back up his claim about US fighters flying unsafely, Konashenkov alleged that an F-22 Raptor crossed into Russian airspace on November 23 to disrupt two Su-25 bombing runs, before it was chased away by an Su-35.

Su-25s.

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Su-25s.
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Russian Defense Ministry

“The F-22 launched decoy flares and used airbrakes while constantly maneuvering [near the Russian strike jets], imitating an air fight” before it was chased away, Konashenkov said.

But the US Air Force categorically denies the incident, saying in a statement that deconfliction phone line transcripts show Russia never called about the incident and that Coalition flight logs have no record of any US cross overs without informing Russia first.

Russia, on the other hand, appears to have only brought up the alleged November 23 incident after the Times and CNN articles were published and didn’t provide other examples of US fighters flying unsafely or disrupting Russian bombing runs.

The Russian Embassy in Washington DC and the Russian Defense Ministry did not respond to multiple calls and emails from Business Insider asking for more examples of US fighters flying unsafely and why Moscow never mentioned the alleged November 23 incident until after the Times and CNN articles were published.