US says Russian fighter hit drone with flare over Syria
PHOTO CAPTION: A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 is seen at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, Sept. 3, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Haley Stevens via U.S. Defense Visual Information Distribution Service)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. military said a Russian fighter jet hit a U.S. drone with a flare and "severely" damaged its propeller over Syria, the latest in a series of closer interactions by Russian military aircraft in the region.
Over the past several months, U.S. officials say, Russian jets have increased the pace of dangerous encounters with U.S. military aircraft over Syria, where forces from both countries operate.
"One of the Russian flares struck the U.S. MQ-9, severely damaging its propeller," the U.S. military said in a statement on Tuesday.
"Fortunately, the MQ-9 crew was able to maintain flight and safely recover the aircraft to its home base," the statement added.
U.S. military officials have said it is unclear what has led to the uptick in aggressive Russian moves over Syrian skies.
"There is a bit of an uptick, but I wouldn't overstate it too much. I think that our forces have adequate rules of engagement and authorities provided to defend themselves," General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters earlier this month.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington. Additional reporting by Kanjyik Ghosh.)