Nearly half a dozen U.S. fighter jets have contributed to protecting the air space over Hasakah, Syria, after Syrian government warplanes conducted airstrikes there on Thursday, allegedly against Kurdish forces. The location is also near American special operations forces and allies on the ground.
"We will always seek to protect our forces and we have an inherent right to ensure self defense if a situation dictates," Air Forces Central Command spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Karns told Air Force Times Saturday.
Karns said the jets providing combat air patrols include F-15Es, F-16s and F-18s.
In a follow on incident Friday, two U.S. F-22s intercepted Syrian aircraft "which attempted to transit the area and were met by coalition aircraft," Karns said. "The presence of the aircraft effectively encouraged the Syrian aircraft to depart the airspace, without further incident."
Defense officials later said the Syrian aircraft were Su-24s.
Karns said that no weapons were fired by coalition fighter jets.
Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis on Friday said that the U.S. has warned Syria that America will defend coalition troops. Davis also said he believes this is the first time the U.S. has scrambled aircraft in response to an incident like this involving Syrian government bombings.
"We have highly disciplined and professional Airmen delivering airpower and ensuring defense as needed and where needed," Karns said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.