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US officials see fewer Russian sorties over Euphrates in Syria

20 December 2017

Russian aircraft appear to have reduced sorties around the Middle Euphrates River Valley in Syria after a non-lethal engagement between US and Russian combat aircraft.A US Air Force F-22 pilot launched flares in response to a pair of Russian Su-25s flying close to the US aircraft. Tensions appear to have eased and US operators noticed fewer Russian sorties recently. (Lockheed Martin)A US Air Force F-22 pilot launched flares in response to a pair of Russian Su-25s flying close to the US aircraft. Tensions appear to have eased and US operators noticed fewer Russian sorties recently. (Lockheed Martin)

A 'deconfliction' agreement has the United States operating against Islamic State targets east of the river, and Russia operating west of the river. If either side needs to cross the river, they are to notify the other via a communication line.

There had been an "uptick in these either sloppy flying, or overtly provocative flying" by Russian pilots over the Middle Euphrates River Valley, but "things have tampered down since last week", US Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters at the Pentagon during a 19 December conference call.

Within the last week, "there has been a decrease in the amount of sorties that they have flown around the [Middle Euphrates River Valley]", Col Dillon said. US officials had said Russian aircraft were frequently crossing into American-controlled airspace above the war-torn region.

US-Russian tensions in the air appeared to have come to a head on 13 December when a US Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor stealth fighter fired flares to warn off a pair of Russian Sukhoi Su-25 ‘Frogfoot’ ground attack aircraft flying somewhere in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.

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