In the skies over Syria on Sunday, a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet secured America’s first air to air combat victory in over twenty years.  The American jet was forced to engage and shoot down a Syrian military SU-22 that had begun dropping ordnance near U.S. partnered forces in the area.

The United States was forced to shoot a drone down in Syria last week after it also attempted to bomb U.S.-backed forces.

“On June 18 at 6:43 p.m., a Syrian regime SU-22 military jet aircraft dropped bombs near Syrian Democratic Forces fighters south of Tabqah, Syria, and, in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of coalition partnered forces, was immediately shot down by a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft.” The Pentagon explained in a press release.

“The coalition presence in Syria addresses the imminent threat ISIS in Syria poses globally. The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations will not be tolerated.”

Prior to the events of the past few weeks, the United States military has not been forced into an air-to-air encounter in nearly two decades, as the nature of the war on terror has seen a very different style of combat.  The last time a U.S. jet shot down an enemy warplane was in 1999, when a U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle shot down a Serbian Mig-29.

According to the Pentagon, the air-to-air engagement occurred after Syrian loyalist forces attacked U.S. backed Syrian Democratic Forces, in the village of Ja’Din, southwest of Raqqa.  After the SU-22 dropped bombs near the Syrian Democratic Forces, the F/A-18E Super Hornet immediately moved to engage.  This incident marks the fourth time in a month the United States has been forced to take military action against pro-Syrian military targets as they attack U.S. backed forces.

“The attack stresses coordination between the US and ISIS,” The Syrian government claimed, “and it reveals the evil intentions of the US in administrating terrorism and investing it to pass the US-Zionist project in the region.”

According to the Pentagon, the United States attempted to avoid the incident by using the “deconfliction” channel to communicate with Russia, Syria’s largest ally, in an attempt to deescalate the situation.  Those calls are said to have lasted for nearly two hours until, despite the U.S. calling for the Syrian forces to stand down and indicating that they had air support overhead, the SU-22 jet went on the offensive against the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The U.S. F/A-18E attempted to hail the Syrian jet, but received no response.  Once it dropped its ordnance near the coalition fighters, the F-18 pilot shot the SU-22 down “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of coalition partnered forces,” the Pentagon said.

The Pentagon also rejected Syrian government’s explanation that the SU-22 was attempting to engage ISIS, explaining that Ja’Din has been controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces for some time, and that there are no active ISIS contingents in the area.

Russia claimed that the United States never attempted to contact them through the deconfliction channel, and issued a statement declaring that they would engage any American aircraft operating west of the Euphrates as a result of this incident.

“Any aircraft, including planes and drones belonging to the international coalition operating west of the Euphrates river, will be tracked by Russian anti-aircraft forces in the sky and on the ground and treated as targets,” the Russian defense ministry said.

Featured image of U.S. Navy sailors preparing to launch an F/A-18C Hornet aircraft assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 15 aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kasey Krall, US Navy