Russia has started flying drone aircraft on surveillance missions in Syria, U.S. officials said on Monday, in what appeared to be Moscow’s first military air operations there since staging a rapid buildup at a Syrian air base.
The beginning of Russian drone flights underscored the risks of U.S.-led coalition planes and Russian aircraft operating within Syria’s limited airspace, without agreeing on coordination or objectives in Syria’s civil war.
The former Cold War foes have a common adversary in Islamic State militants in Syria. But Washington opposes Moscow’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, seeing him as a driving force in the four-and-a-half year-long civil war.
The Pentagon declined comment at a news briefing when asked about the Reuters report on Russian drones, saying it could not discuss intelligence matters. But it said the U.S. Department of Defense was “keenly aware” of what was happening on the ground in Syria . . .
One U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the number of fixed-wing, piloted Russian aircraft stationed at the air base near Latakia, an Assad stronghold, had also grown dramatically in recent days. (Read more from “Russia Starting Syria Drone Surveillance Missions” HERE)