June 15, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Deploys F-22s to Syria to Deter ‘Unprofessional Behavior’ by Russia

June 15, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Deploys F-22s to Syria to Deter ‘Unprofessional Behavior’ by Russia

Latest Developments

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced on June 14 the deployment of advanced fighter jets, F-22 Raptors, to the Middle East to deter dangerous and provocative behavior by Russian aircraft in the region. According to CENTCOM’s statement, deployment of the F-22s from the 94th Fighter Squadron based at Virginia’s Langley Air Force Base demonstrates the “U.S.’ ability to re-posture forces and deliver overwhelming power at a moment’s notice.”

Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, CENTCOM commander, said in the statement, “Russian Forces’ unsafe and unprofessional behavior is not what we expect from a professional air force. Their regular violation of agreed upon airspace deconfliction measures increases the risk of escalation or miscalculation.”

Expert Analysis

“The Biden administration must ensure that U.S. forces in Syria have both the permission and the means to defend themselves and make aggressors regret their actions. Otherwise, we should expect more provocative behavior from the Russians and more attacks from Iranian terror proxies.” Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

“The deployment of low-density, high-value assets like the F-22 to the CENTCOM area of responsibility to deter Russia is yet another example of how great power competition doesn’t just take place in Europe and Asia but happens in the Middle East as well. Washington ignores Russian and Chinese activities in the region at its own peril.” — Ryan Brobst, FDD Senior Research Analyst

Russia Remains in Syria

On March 16, Kurilla told the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing that Russia has made little change to its forces in Syria despite the war in Ukraine. Instead, it seeks to expand its influence in Syria and undermine efforts at regional stability as it supports Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. The Washington Post reported on June 1 that leaked documents and intelligence officials indicate that Assad, Russia, and Iran are plotting to drive American forces out of Syria. Russia currently deploys approximately 2,500 troops in Syria.

Russia’s Provocative Behavior

Kurilla told the committee that Russian aircraft violate deconfliction protocols daily and fly over U.S. bases, with a significant spike in such conduct beginning on March 1. Armed planes flew over U.S. bases nearly every day that month. In April, Defense One reported that Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, described Russian fighter jets “aggressively maneuvering” close to U.S. planes, appearing to try to goad them into a dogfight.

Vital U.S. Interests in Syria

Despite the destruction of the ISIS caliphate, approximately 900 U.S. troops serve alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria, working to contain the remnants of ISIS, prevent a resurgence of the group, and detain approximately 10,000 of its fighters in jails. Kurilla said during his Senate testimony that despite being significantly degraded, ISIS can still conduct operations within and outside the area.

Related Analysis

Degrade and Destroy: The Inside Story of the War Against the Islamic State, from Barack Obama to Donald Trump,” FDD Event with Michael Gordon, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Sean MacFarland, Michèle Flournoy, and Bradley Bowman

Lebanese Hezbollah Making Preparations to Target U.S. Troops in Syria,” by Joe Truzman and Bill Roggio

Iran-backed Militias Target U.S. Troops in Eastern Syria,” by Joe Truzman


Islamic State Military and Political Power Russia Syria