A US MQ-9 Reaper drone was fired at by a Russian SA-22 Pantsir air defense system in Syria back in November, a US official told Air & Space Forces Magazine.
The incident was first revealed by one of the Pentagon documents allegedly leaked by Jack Teixeira. The US official disclosed new information about the incident, saying the Russian missile came within 40 feet of the MQ-9 and damaged the drone when the warhead exploded.
The details of the incident are not clear. It’s unknown if Russia intentionally fired on the drone or knew if it was a US aircraft. According to the leaked document, the missile was fired from the Qamishili Airfield in northeast Syria, an area where both the US and Russian militaries have a presence.
Col. Joe Buccino, a spokesman for US Central Command, told The War Zone that the US and Russian militaries discussed the incident through deconfliction lines. “After the incident, CENTCOM officials contacted the Russian deconfliction center about the matter,” he said.
Buccino added that such incidents in Syria are “not routine.” A US MQ-9 Reaper Drone had another encounter with Russia over the Black Sea in March, which led to the downing of the drone after it was intercepted by Russian aircraft.
The incident in Syria demonstrates the danger of the US presence in the country as it serves as a tripwire for a potential conflict with Syria’s allies, which includes Russia and Iran. Damascus is strongly opposed to the US occupation of eastern Syria.