The most recent OSINT and civilian intelligence indicate a crowded airspace in Syria as multiple countries invade the space with increasing attacks, at cross purposes in Syria’s civil war, sometimes without coordination.
Imminent Clash of Syria Allies
It seems both traditional and recent countries intervening in the Syrian crisis are at risk of unintended conflict as they all increase their assault on the enemy of the terror plagued and war torn country.
Currently, there is a total of at least five countries conducting air space raid in Syria, minus the Syrian airplanes themselves. There is Russia, US, Turkey, Australia and France war planes in the country.
The latest entry in the air borne war is Russia. Moscow says it is bombing the Islamic State in line with United States priorities, but the US says Russia is mainly striking anti-government rebels in support of its ally, President Bashar Assad.
Russian officials say more than 50 warplanes and helicopters are taking part in the open-ended air operations, including Su-24M, Su-25 and Su-34 jets. They are flying 20-25 missions a day in Syria, compared to an average of about eight per day by the US led coalition.
In addition to its air campaign, Russia has brought ground combat weaponry into western Syria. This includes a small number of artillery pieces and multiple-launch rocket systems moved in recent days to the vicinity of Hama, southeast of the coastal air base where Russia has staged most of its aircraft.
The Russians, who are not coordinating with the Americans, reportedly also have hit at least one US supported rebel group.
For its part, Turkey in late August began airstrikes in Syria as part of the US led anti-Islamic State coalition. Turkish warplanes are fully integrated into the coalition attack plan, as are those of Australia, which began flying strike missions over Syria in September. France also began bombing in September.
And Syria’s air force is also bombing targets within its borders, hitting both Islamic State and anti-government rebels, all of whom Assad has labeled terrorists.
US and Russian defense officials held a one-hour video teleconference last week on ways to “de-conflict” Syrian airspace, or prevent unintended air incidents, including collisions. No agreement was reached. More talks are expected, although a senior defense official said Monday there had been no further word from Moscow, raising doubt about Russian intentions. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter and thus spoke on condition of anonymity.
The recent misunderstanding between the two powerful countries opens the possibility, however unlikely, of the Americans and Russians coming to blows.