Russian aircraft bombing Islamic State (IS, ISIS/ISIL) in Syria do not present a hazard to American drones, Pentagon spokesperson Michelle Baldanza told Russian media. Meanwhile, NORAD’s chief has found a new challenge in Russian cruise missiles.
“At no time did the [US-led anti-IS] Coalition [in Syria] feel our remotely piloted aircraft were threatened and we expect Russian pilots to act in a responsible, professional manner if they encounter any coalition aircraft. Coalition forces remain focused and committed to our mission to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL,” Baldanza told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.
The statement comes after the Pentagon said at least one American military aircraft was forced to divert its route when flying over Syrian airspace in order to avoid making contact with a Russian warplane, as reported by AP, citing US military spokesperson Naval Captain Jeff Davis.
Davis could not provide any more details, except that some US air operations had had to be changed since Russia began its air campaign. Unconfirmed American media reports also claimed that Russian fighter jets “intercepted” US MQ-1 Predator drones over Syria. Details, however, suggested that the drones’ flight paths were not hampered despite close fly-bys.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that it had promptly examined an unspecified proposal from the Pentagon on coordination in Syria that the two sides have been discussing, adding that it was possible that this proposal could be implemented.
However, the ministry noted that the US side had been “reducing our coordination only to its technical aspects” such as coordination between pilots during missions. It added that Washington was refusing to share intelligence on IS with Russia, using every possible excuse to avoid cooperation.
In the latest Russian action against IS, four Russian naval warships in the Caspian Sea fired a total of 26 missiles at the terrorist group’s positions in Syria on Wednesday.
The Russian weapons were able to reach targets 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) away and all the intended targets were hit, according to Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.
Following the strikes, the US Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), Admiral William Gortney, said that Russia’s cruise missiles and long-range aviation capability present a new challenge for American defense strategies.
“The challenge that is confronting us…is the Russian long-range aviation and the Russian cruise missile threat from submarine, subsurface platforms and surface platforms,” Gortney said in a Wednesday speech at the Atlantic Council.
Gortney added that NORAD and the Northern Command are particularly concerned about this since Russian long-range aviation aircraft are capable of hitting critical targets in North America without ever leaving “Russian territory in order to do it.”
Russia launched its military operation against Islamic State at the request of the Syrian government on September 30. Since the start of the operation, at least 112 objects have been destroyed, including IS command centers, ammunition depots, and armored vehicles.