By Bijan Razzaghi
The de-confliction line along the Euphrates River has been a point of tension between the US led coalition and Russian backed Pro Assad Forces. The line separate’s Pro Assad controlled territory and US friendly SDF forces. On numerous occasions US Air Force F-22 Raptors and Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets have regularly intercepted Pro Assad aircraft belonging to both Russia and Syria.
On one recent occasion a pair of Su-25s and at least 1 Su-35 infiltrated the de-confliction zone. The strike package was intercepted by US Air Force F-22s which gave radio warnings and dropped flares to deter the aircraft. The incident ended with out any shots fired but the Su-35 appeared to have been sent as an escort for the Su-25s. Another alleged incident involved a pair of Su-35s tailing a package of US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles; F-22s were deployed to deter the fighters.
The close proximity of Coalition and Pro Assad aircraft have led to a dangerous operating environment where an air to air engagement can happen at any time as witnessed when a US Navy F/A-18E shot down a Syrian Su-22 over Raqqah. The reason for keeping Pro Assad aircraft out of North Eastern Syria is that they have attacked allied SDF forces in the past. US Special Operations Forces and Advisors regularly accompany these forces. Similar incidents have taken place along the Jordanian border.
Coalition forces have an advantage over Pro Assad forces as they deploy low observable aircraft such as the F-22 Raptor and utilize advanced ISR systems from AWACS and JSTARs aircraft. The moment potentially hostile aircraft enter coalition airspace allied aircraft are able to respond immediately.