By Bijan Razzaghi
On Sunday June 18th a US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet engaged and shot down a Syrian SU-22 that was attacking US backed forces on the ground. The incident started when pro regime Syrian forces were pushing US backed forces out of a nearby town. US Aircraft then returned to the area conducted a show of force which resulted in the withdraw of pro regime forces. Later on a Syrian Air Force Su-22 dropped ordinance on allied forces, shortly there after the F/A-18E engaged and destroyed the aircraft. This marks the first American air-to-air kill of a manned aircraft since the Kosovo War in 1999 when US Air Force F-15s and F-16s shot own Serbian Mig-29s and Mig-21s.
The Syrian SU-22 stood little chance against the F/A-18 Super Hornet as the SU-22 is primarily designed as a ground attack aircraft with limited air to air capability. The only air to air weapons that the SU-22 can employ are the AA-8 Aphid and AA-2 Atoll air to air missiles for self defense. Both of these are infra red seeking. The Aphid can hit targets from 5 miles away while the Atoll can from 22 miles away with limited accuracy. The SU-22 also posses a twin NR-30 30mm cannon. SU-22s are designed to pull up to 7Gs and have a thrust to weight ratio of 0.68 which does not allow the SU-22 to produce the energy required to match modern aircraft in air to air combat. SU-22s are among the most prominent aircraft used by Assad’s forces they were the aircraft used during the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack.
The US Navy/s F/A-18 Super Hornet is among the most advanced variant of the F/A18 series of fighters. The Super Hornet can engage enemy aircraft from up to 57 miles away with the AIM-120C AMRAAM and 97 miles with the AIM-120D. F/A-18s can effectively engage in visual range air to air combat as well with the AIM-9X sidewinder with assistance from the JHMCS helmet mounted queuing system allowing the pilot to look, lock on and shoot. F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets often patrol with a combination of air to air and air to ground ordinance allowing the aircraft to be a true multi role platform.
It is unlikely this will be the last clash between US and pro Assad forces, tension have been mounting as coalition forces close in on the Isis claimed capital of Raqqah ,as well as the allied presence near the southern border post with Jordan. On April 7th 2017 coalition forces launched the first ever strike on pro Assad forces, ever since then clashes have been taking place between both sides.