U.S., Russian Jet Incident Over Syria Not Hostile, Press Secretary Says
The Oct. 17 incident in which American and Russian aircraft flew within a half mile of one another over Syrian battlespace was inadvertent contact and not hostile, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters today.
The flight was disclosed during a teleconferenced news briefing out of Baghdad Oct. 28 with Air Force Col. John Dorrian, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman.
Cook called the proximity of the two planes -- which Dorrian described as a Russian fighter jet and a coalition larger-framed aircraft -- was an unusual occurrence.
“Obviously, it's a concern for us. [The] emergency line of communication was used and there was discussion afterward, and it's been determined by our folks that they saw this as an inadvertent contact,” the press secretary said, adding, “This was not something they saw an intentional act of hostility.”
The incident will be a continued focus of conversation according to the memorandum of understanding the United States and Russia have over Syrian airspace safety, he said.
Closest In Proximity To Date
“We continue to have those conversations with the Russians,” Cook noted. “But I think it’s fair to say that this was the closest in terms of proximity that we had come to date, and that is why there was a particular cause for concern.”
Cook reiterated that the United States engaged in conversations with the Russians to gain a better understanding of what happened. “And we’ll continue to have those conversations with the Russians to try to make sure something like this can’t happen again,” he said.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter and other DoD officials were notified of the occurrence, Cook said.
“There has been professional handling of it [on both sides],” he said. “And, we continue to believe that is the best way to handle these issues going forward.”
“The Russian jet passed in front of the coalition jet close enough that the jet wash from that flight was felt within the larger aircraft,” Dorrian said last week. “So, that's closer than we'd like. There was an immediate [radio] contact between the aircraft, and then follow-up through the de-confliction channel that we've been working with the Russians [on] for quite some time.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)