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​A US Navy F/A-18E, like the one shown here, shot down a manned Syrian fighter on June 18, 2017, after it dropped bombs on US-backed fighters in Syria. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bobby J. Siens.

—Brian Everstine

A US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet on Sunday shot down a manned Syrian Air Force jet after it dropped bombs on US-backed fighters.

The shoot down, a dramatic escalation in a series of strikes by the US on Syrian and pro-regime fighters, came after the US Combined Air Operations Center contacted Russia to try to stop the situation, according to a Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve statement.

At about 4:30 p.m. local time, pro-regime forces attacked US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces at the town of Ja’Din, wounding a number of fighters. After the attack, US aircraft conducted a “show of force” flight to stop the advance. The coalition then called Russia to “de-escalate the situation and stop the firing,” the task force said.

At 6:43 p.m., a Syrian Su-22 dropped bombs near SDF fighters near the town of Tabqah. “In accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of coalition partnered forces,” a Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet shot down the jet.

“The coalition’s mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” the coalition said in the statement. “The coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend coalition or partner forces from any threat.”

The shoot down was the first air-to-air kill for a Super Hornet, though F/A-18 Hornets recorded multiple shoot downs during the Gulf War. It came shortly after a US Air Force F-15E shot down a large, Iranian-made drone on June 8 in the same region. The attack was the fourth time within one month that US aircraft have attacked pro-Syrian government forces.

Syrian state media said the jet’s pilot is missing. The Syrian government claims the jet was targeting ISIS, and said the US attack was “flagrant aggression” and that the US is in support of terrorism.  

The coalition statement said 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.”