-- A Russian fighter jet flew a half mile from a large coalition aircraft flying over Syria 10 days ago, the U.S. military disclosed today.
The encounter was close enough that the coalition aircraft was able to feel the Russian jet's wake, officials said. Coalition officials stressed that the encounter was not intentional and an example of why the United States and Russia maintain a communications channel to discuss air safety over Syria.
"From my understanding, two aircraft, one Russian and one coalition, came within a half a mile of each other," Colonel John Dorrian, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said in a video link with Pentagon reporters today. "The Russian aircraft was a fighter jet and the coalition aircraft was a larger framed aircraft."
Dorrian did not disclose the type of coalition aircraft involved in the incident that occurred the night of Oct. 17.
"The Russian jet passed in front of the coalition jet close enough that the jet wash from that flight was felt in the larger aircraft," Dorrian said. "That's closer than we'd like."
The pilots of the two aircraft contacted each other immediately, Dorrian said, and the incident was dealt with the next day through the de-confliction channel set up with Russia to discuss air safety over Syria.
The coalition has determined that the Russian flight pattern was not done "with nefarious intent," Dorrian said.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, was informed of the incident shortly after it occurred.
Dorrian said the incident was not disclosed to the public at the time it occurred because the de-confliction channel with Russia is "not designed for public disclosure." Its purpose is to prevent incidents from escalating and is "really more intended to keep the temperature down between us and the Russians in that very crowded and confused, at times, battle space," Dorrian said.
The incident was first mentioned in a press interview done today with the Air Force general based in Qatar who is running the coalition's air campaign against ISIS.
Lt. General Jeffrey Harrigian mentioned the incident to reporters to highlight the importance of keeping a line of communication open with Russia in order to prevent miscalculation and misunderstanding in the complex airspace over Syria.