SYRIA, October 7, 2015– In the last week, Russian fighter jets have reportedly closely shadowed American predator drones over Syria since the start of Russia’s air campaign last week. Two U.S. intelligence officials confirmed the uncomfortable encounter.
[pull_quote_center]“The first time it happened, we thought the Russians got lucky. Then it happened two more times,” said one official.[/pull_quote_center]
The officials claimed that the encounters took place over ISIS’ Raqqa headquarters, as well as on the Turkish-Syrian border near Korbani. The final encounter occurred in the northwest, near the city of Aleppo.
Intelligence officials said that drones were not stealth, and easy to spot on radar.
According to one official, although the Russian fighter jets did not attempt to shoot down any of the American drones, they instead flew “intercept tracks,” a term meaning that the Russians flew close enough to indicate their presence.
According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Russia has been pouring troops and heavy military equipment into Syria.
“So we have seen a substantial military buildup by Russia in Syria, both in the air with the combat planes and air defense systems, but also an increasing number of ground troops,” he said. “In addition to that, they have deployed naval assets, a large number of naval assets close to the Syrian shores. And they continue to do so.”
On Tuesday, Stoltenberg expressed concern as he condemned Russia for violating Turkish airspace.
“We see the violation of the Turkish airspace becomes more important, more dangerous, because it happens in a context where we see more fighting, more Russian military presence in Syria,” said Stoltenberg.