Yesterday, a U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Air Force SU-22 after it bombed U.S. backed rebel fighters in Raqqa province, Syria. Russia condemned the incident, calling it a "flagrant attack", saying it would have "dangerous repercussions". The Russians have now said that any coalition aircraft operating west of the Euphrates river will be tracked and treated as targets. The crowded airspace in Syria did see another high-profile incident in 2015
when Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian SU-24 attack aircraft, killing one of its two pilots and leading to a serious diplomatic spat between Moscow and Ankara.
Sunday's incident is believed to be the first air-to-air kill of a manned aircraft by a U.S. military jet since Operation Allied Force over Kosovo in 1999. Five Serbian MIGs were shot down by American aircraft during that conflict. Over the past four decades, aerial engagements have become rare events for the U.S. military. The last conflict with large scale aerial combat was Operation Desert Storm in 1991 which saw 41 Iraqi aircraft shot down
by American fighters. The reason these engagements have become so rare is largely due to the U.S. technological edge in the skies. That can be seen by the combat record of the F-15 fighter. Since it was introduced in the 1970s, no F-15 has ever been shot down by an enemy plane and its kill ratio in the hands of the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia stands at 107 to zero.
With odds like that, many countries have decided against sacrificing their aircraft in the face of overwhelming U.S. aerial supremacy in times of conflict. American control of the skies during warfare has been so complete that the last U.S. soldier killed on the ground by an enemy air attack died in Korea in 1953. However, with Russia and China developing new highly advanced fighter aircraft of their own, capable of competing with the latest F-22 and F-35
, nobody in the U.S. military is taking the current state of aerial supremacy for granted.