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Did U.S. Air Power (Think F-15s and B-52s) Kill Russian Mercenaries in Syria?

Dave Majumdar


A mystery unfolds. 

Confusion reigns over a recent series of U.S. airstrikes in Syria that allegedly killed several Russian mercenaries. While the American side seems to lack information, the Kremlin is dismissing the suggestion that Russian mercenaries were killed as “disinformation.” Given the confusion surrounding the issue, it is hard to say what the truth on the ground actually is.  

From the American perspective, what happened on Feb. 7 is fairly simple. “For a quick recap, on the evening of February 7th, the coalition acted in self-defense where coalition advisers were present to support SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] from a hostile force launching an unprovoked, coordinated attack across the Euphrates River against an established SDF position,” Lt. Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command told reporters. “The hostile force initiated the attack by firing artillery and tank rounds at the SDF position, followed by a battalion-sized dismounted formation attempting to advance on partner forces under cover of supporting fires from artillery, tanks, and multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars.”

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The American force’s response was to use airpower to defend itself and to contact the Russians via a deconfliction line. “At the start of this attack, coalition aircraft, including F-22s and MQ-9s, were overhead providing protective overwatch, defensive counter-air, and ISR support—as we have done daily throughout the defeat—the fight to defeat ISIS,” Harrigian said. “We immediately contacted the Russian officials on the deconfliction telephone line to alert them to the unprovoked attack on a known SDF and coalition position. After these calls, coalition officials approved strikes to destroy hostile forces.”

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