The F-15Cs deployed to Incirlik AB, Turkey, will be performing combat air patrols and “defensive counterair” missions, but are also there to help keep Russian and coalition aircraft from dangerous encounters, Air Combat Command chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle said Tuesday. Speaking with defense reporters in Washington, D.C., Carlisle was asked about the mission of the F-15Cs, which have no ground attack capability. “There’s a lot of airplanes flying around” in the airspace over and around Syria, he said, and the Eagle’s mission is “probably less about air combat and probably more about keeping people safely apart that need to be safely apart. The F-15 … has a fantastic radar and…ability to monitor the air.” The F-15Cs’ missions are about “keeping SA [situational Awareness] about what’s going on in that airspace,” he added. Carlisle also said the Combined Force Air Component Commander, Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, and his Russian counterpart in Syria “talk twice a day” on the new hotline that’s been set up, and “everybody’s interested in safety of flight and … not getting into dangerous situations or miscalculations.” Russia can see the air picture through Syrian ground radar, and the coalition has AWACS, he noted. Carlisle insisted the coalition has not changed the way it operates since Russia began flying missions in the region.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.