Coalition Fighter Shoots Down UAS In Northeast Syria

A U.S. F-15E releases flares over Syria in 2017.
Credit: U.S. Air Force

A coalition aircraft shot down an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) with an air-to-air missile near a U.S. military base in eastern Syria on Aug. 21, U.S. Central Command told Aviation Week.

“The UAS was deemed a threat and self-defense measures were taken,” a Central Command spokesman told Aviation Week. “We cannot discuss operational details of force protection further.”

Aviation Week understands the aircraft that engaged the UAS was a Boeing F-15E assigned to the U.S. Air Force's 48th Fighter Wing at Lakenheath Air Base, England, which regularly deploys squadrons to support operations in the Middle East.

A general officer was flying the F-15E and launched a Raytheon AIM-9X missile at the UAS, according to two sources. The pilot was Brig. Gen. Christopher Sage, commander of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing. 

The identity and ownership of the UAS that was shot down was not provided initially, but a source confirms it belonged to Iran. The Iranian UAS was operating near Green Village, a U.S. base on the Euphrates River in Syria’s far eastern district.   

During Syria’s decade-long civil war, the country’s airspace has been used by UAS operated by the U.S., Israel, Syria, Russia, Turkey and Iran.

The incident marks the first time a U.S. fighter has shot down a UAS over Syria since June 20, 2017. In that event, a U.S. F-15E shot down an armed Iranian Shahed 129 UAS near the al-Tanf  base in southern Syria. Two days before, a U.S. Navy F/A-18E shot down a Syrian air force Su-22 fighter, which had dropped bombs near U.S.-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

More recently, U.S. military forces in the oil-rich Deir ez-Zor province of Syria have been active against Russian forces and pro-Iranian militias.

In August 2020 a Russian military vehicle rammed a U.S. military vehicle in North Eastern Syria, injuring four American troops. Since February, the Biden Administration has launched air strikes twice on pro-Iranian militias operating near the Syrian border with Iraq.

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.


1 Comment
A General flying an operational mission. Robin Olds would be proud.