The U.S. Navy found itself scrambling its F/A-18 fighter jets towards Russian SU-34s on Thursday in order to prevent allied counter-ISIS rebels on the ground in Syria from being bombed a second time. It was unsuccessful though. When the F/A-18’s left to refuel, the Russia jets decide to make a bombing run again.
Following the incident, the Department of Defense held a video conference with Russia‘s Ministry of Defense. According to the Pentagon, department officials “expressed strong concerns” about the attack that had taken place. They discussed the previously agreed upon cessation of hostilities in Syria.
The U.S. also expressed concerns that even when it attempted to inform Russia through proper channels about an on-going coalition air support to the counter-ISIS forces on the ground, Russian forces still “created safety concerns” for both the U.S. and its coalition forces.
As for the Russians, the Russia Defense Ministry claims that their target had been located over 300 kilometers away from the territories where the U.S. and coalition forces were operating. Moreover, Moscow says the U.S. failed to present them with coordinates of their region of activity. This made it an “impossibility” for the Russian jets to correct its actions.
According to a report from the Los Angeles Times, two Russian SU-34 bombers struck a garrison in At-Tanf which hosted rebels supported by the U.S. The forces had been conducting counter-ISIS operations in the area.
After the garrison was struck the first time, the U.S. Navy scrambled F/A-18 jets to approach the SU-34’s. The U.S. pilots reportedly said they were able to speak directly with the Russian aviators. Meanwhile, officials at the U.S. Central Command also used a special hotline to reach their Russian counterparts.
In the end, however, all their efforts remained futile. The F/A-18’s soon ran low of fuel and had to leave the area in order to get refueled via an aerial tanker. Shortly after they had left, the Russian SU-34 made another bombing run at the allied rebels. As much as 180 rebel fighters were said to have been in the garrison when the bombing attacks occurred.