US downs Syrian warplane while defending SDF

The US military shot down a Syrian fighter bomber yesterday after it attacked Syrian Democratic Forces in a town recently liberated from the Islamic State. The incident is part of the growing US escalation and involvement in Syria’s civil war as the Islamic State’s territory in Syria is shrinking and US allies are coming into contact with Syrian forces and its allies, including Russia, Iran, and a host of Shiite militias that are hostile to the US.

US Central Command, or CENTCOM, documented the engagement in a press release. According to CENTCOM, A US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian SU-22 fighter-bomber after it attacked Syrian Democratic Forces south of the town of Tabqa. The US military downed the Syrian warplane “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces.”

Prior to the engagement, the US attempted to warn the Syrian military using an “established ‘deconfliction line'” with Russia. Pro-Syrian government forces were fighting the SDF in Ja’Din, which is “two kilometers north of an established East-West SDF-Syrian Regime de-confliction area.”

Russia’s Ministry of Defense responded by shutting down the deconfliction hotline and warning that all US aircraft may now be considered hostile targets.

“In the areas of combat missions of Russian air fleet in Syrian skies, any airborne objects, including aircraft and unmanned vehicles of the international coalition, located to the west of the Euphrates River, will be tracked by Russian ground and air defense forces as air targets,” a statement released by the Russian Ministry of Defense declared.

US coming into direct confrontation with Syria and its allies

Over the past several months, the US military has come in closer contact with the Syrian regime and its allies as all sides seek to capitalize on the the Islamic State’s shrinking control of territory. This has put the US military, which is backing anti-government forces, in direct conflict with Syria and its allies.

The US military has attacked pro-Syrian regime militias, including some Shiite military from Iraq, in the At Tanf area near the Jordanian border, three times since mid-May. The US is training militias to battle the Islamic State at a base in At Tanf, while the militias seek to control the border crossing and lines of communication to Deir al Zour in order to regain control of the Euphrates River Valley from the Islamic State.

While the US military has insisted its mission “is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria” and “does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them,” it reiterated that it “will not hesitate to defend Coalition or partner forces from any threat.”

This stance indicates that the US mission in Syria is dangerously morphing from a counterterrorism action against the Islamic State into a party to Syria’s civil war.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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12 Comments

  • Bill Baar says:

    “Syrian” plane but was the pilot Syrian?

    • Jeff Sheldon says:

      Good question Bill, but not much different than wondering as to the makeup of the SDF who were bombed by the “Syrian” plane, that we shot down.

      I would totally expect that we, the US military, is leading/directing the SDF, at street level. We must protect our people.

    • Arjuna says:

      Yes, his name and photo are online. Google is your friend.

  • James says:

    Vlad Putin hates you America. Why don’t you face that reality for what it’s worth? Now, in order to keep in power his lackey (in the region), the tyrant butcher a$$ad, he has gone so low as to threaten the lives of our troops.

    It is no exaggeration when I state that Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave at the thought of some of you heaping praise on someone like Putin. I mean, here is a guy that spent a significant part of his career running the Soviet ‘secret police’ (the KGB).

    Here is a guy that has gone so low as to heap praise (by calling him an ‘effective leader’) on someone like Joseph Stalin (a tyrant that preceded him). The same tyrant which world history has (or should have) taught you accomplished the ignominious feat of slaughtering and murdering more of his own people than Adolph Hitler did.

    Here is a guy that had his agents surreptitiously poison the breakfast of a political dissident with radioactive isotopes. As a result of that, the man died painfully from stomach cancer (with innocent bystanders also being exposed to the radiation).

    In my own honest assessment, this man (Putin) doesn’t even have a soul (or conscious) to speak of. I don’t see how anyone (especially Americans) could be so foolish as to ever trust him. My advice? In a worst case scenario, you may respect him (not for who he is, but for the nation he represents), but I would never trust him.

  • pre-Boomer Marine brat says:

    Erdogan’s purges have gutted the command ranks of the Turkish armed forces — most recently the TAF. What’s the likelihood that Turkish pilots will eventually injure and/or kill Americans working with the SDF’s Raqqa offensive? What’s the likelihood that Erdogan will order such an attack? (Oh really? You think he’d never? Would you like to buy a bridge?)

    By comparison, Putin and Russia are almost a “known quantity”.

  • den says:

    Glad you are first to mention it as a “fighter-BOMBER”, AS most outlets were calling it a “fighter” jet. Big difference, as they can be more slower and less” agile”. Good reporting.

  • KW64 says:

    While getting to be ” party to Syria’s civil war” is undesirable, OTH after the Kurdish and Arab members of the SDF finishing defeating ISIS, it would not bode well for future coalition building to quickly leave the area and allow the Kurdish part of the SDF to be destroyed by the Turks and the Arab part of the SDF destroyed by the Syrians. Sticking around awhile could also give the US influence on the final solution in Syria so that it is not a complete Iranian victory that leave all our allies in the region at more risk.

  • C says:

    Is there any doubt that we are supporting ISIS, if so this ain’t Helping!
    DC is always obsessed with OPTICS.
    Well, even Stevie Wonder can see this stupidity.

    • Arjuna says:

      Yes! There are pics of our Green Berets training the jihadis to use TOWs right here in LWJ.
      I’ve seen videos of same folks using the same systems (TOW) to shoot ambulances and medevac birds full of wounded. Whether technically ISIS or not, they are Saudi-backed jihadis, like ISIS, for sure.
      We never should have sent one dollar or one bullet to that regime change game. John Brennan, Robert Ford, Tori Nuland, and Susan Rice all have blood on their hads.

  • Nato21 says:

    That F18A/E super Hornet really is a dynamite fighting machine. You really don’t want to tangle with them if you value your life. The pilot survived the ejection so no harm no foul. Now that IS is crumbling it’s time to start divvying up the territory. Lot’s of tough talk about “winning the war” from all sides but let’s get real for a second. After a civil war like this thing don’t just go back to the way they were. Who gets what? Only time will tell.

  • Arjuna says:

    Thanks for your objectivity LWJ in calling this an “escalation” not a “victory”.
    One more war (Iran) in this conflict is a Bridge Too Far…
    We are already losing three at present, let’s not lose four.

  • Nima says:

    Sorry, but most comments here are pathetic.
    The US has no right to shoot down the airforce of a sovereign nation in its own airspace, especially since that very airforce is fighting IS.
    Is there any footage showing that the Syrians were bombing “allied forces”?

    Also, can someone give a plausible explanation what those “allies” are doing in Ja´Din SOUTH of Raqqa? I though SDF is supposed to fight IS in Raqqa and capture the city. WHAT ARE THEY DOING SOUTH OF RAQQA???

    The answer is clear: Our “allies” have been instruced to move further southwards and prevent Syrians from recapturing Deir al Zour where IS has put a siege on 100.000 civilians and the army garrison of 10.000 men who have been fighting IS since late 2013.

    All the while the lousy western press has kept on lying about “Assad is not fighting ISIS..”, while “Assads army” and his allied militias have suffered more casualties fighting IS than all other factions together, incl. our SDF allies and other supposedly “moderates”.

    The US in Syria is an aggressive army of occupation. Do not romanticize the bully cowboy behaviour with terms such as “self defense”. Its just as much self defense as a thief killing the owner of a house who has confronted him after he broke into his house.

    Before you reply further nonsense just imagine Russia would build bases inside the US, declare “de-escalation zones”, arm and train a hostile obscure militia and shoot-down US jets from Americas skies. Sounds grotesque? It´s exactly what the US is doing.

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis