American Armored Vehicle Crew Injured After Violent Encounter With Russian Convoy in Syria (Updated)

The latest escalation follows a spate of “road rage” incidents between U.S. and Russian soldiers in Syria.

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Officials have confirmed that the crew of a U.S. armored vehicle was injured after running into a Russian military convoy in an incident in northeast Syria earlier this week. The episode appears to be related to a series of videos of tense encounters between the two forces that have been uploaded to social media channels. The sequences shown in the videos look more like something out of Mad Max: Fury Road than what you think you would find on a modern battlefield.

According to different American media sources, quoting unnamed U.S. officials, the incident occurred when a Russian vehicle apparently deliberately collided with one of its American counterparts, resulting in four U.S. soldiers sustaining “concussion-like injuries.” Other outlets state that “multiple U.S. troops were injured.” 

The news emerged soon after the appearance of video online showing a Russian helicopter performing a potentially dangerous low-level maneuver over American troops. Politico reports that this shows the same incident, and the footage does include an apparent collision between U.S. and Russian vehicles.

The confrontation between American forces and a Russian military patrol seen in the videos also shows a Russian Aerospace Forces Mi-8AMTSh Hip combat helicopter swooping low over a convoy, apparently in an effort to disperse the U.S. elements.

The use of a helicopter as a means of dispersing people on the ground is potentially dangerous, especially when there’s a high risk of foreign object debris damage. It is a tactic that was the subject of much discussion after the protests in Washington D.C. earlier this year, as The War Zone examined here.

Some of the footage seems to have been taken from a Russian vehicle — perhaps a Tigr all-terrain infantry mobility vehicle — in a field alongside a road and near the front of a stationary convoy, with several other armored trucks waiting behind. The Mi-8AMTSh — armed with pods for 80-millimeter unguided rockets — approaches at low level from the rear before hovering ahead of the column of vehicles, its rotor blades kicking up straw and other debris from the fields below. The Hip then turns away, remaining at very low altitude.

A longer video of the same confrontation also seems to show U.S. forces blocking the Russian convoy’s route through the field. It is then that an American MaxxPro mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle appears to be involved in a collision with a Russian Typhoon-K armored truck. This could be the incident in which the American soldiers were injured.

Another clip shows an encounter between two U.S. vehicles and an assortment of Russian hardware, including a BTR-80 armored personnel carrier, two Typhoon-Ks, a Ural-4320 truck, and two Tigr vehicles, as well as Mi-8AMTSh and Mi-35M helicopters. In this case, an American MaxxPro MRAP appears to be moving at speed before apparently being brought to a halt between a Russian BTR-80 and a Typhoon-K. It isn't clear if this video series is related to the incident where the U.S. soldiers were injured or if it occurred beforehand.

This isn’t the first confrontation between Russian and American patrols in northeast Syria. Earlier this year, The War Zone reported on another “road rage” incident between U.S. and Russian troops in Syria, when a video emerged online showing a U.S. military M-ATV mine-resistant vehicle running a Russian Tigr armored utility vehicle off the road somewhere in northeastern Syria. Other tense spats involving Russian and U.S. forces have happened, as well. 

There have also been multiple firefights between American troops and forces aligned with the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad. Just last week, a U.S. patrol took fire from pro-Assad forces after passing through their checkpoint near Tal Al-Zahab in northeastern Syria. There were no U.S. casualties in the resulting incident in which they returned fire, by Syrian state media claimed that one militiaman had died.

The fact that this type of activity between the U.S. and Russia is ongoing in about as convoluted of a war zone as we have ever seen is very concerning, to say the least. We have yet to hear of an official U.S. response beyond the admission that incident occurred, but once we have one, or any new information, we will be sure to update this article. 

UPDATE: 3:50pm EST

U.S. Army General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reportedly spoke to his Russian counterpart, General Valery Gerasimov, today. A readout of that phone call does not say specifically whether the two discussed the altercations in Syria.

UPDATE: 4:50pm EST

A spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council has confirmed to Politico's Laura Seligman that an incident occurred on Aug. 25, 2020, in which a Russian military vehicle struck a U.S. military M-ATV mine-resistant vehicle in Syria, resulting in injuries to American occupants of the latter vehicle.

"To de-escalate the situation, the Coalition patrol departed the area," the spokesperson said. "Unsafe and unprofessional actions like this represent a breach of de-confliction protocols, committed to by the United States and Russia in December 2019."

"The Coalition and the United States do not seek escalation with any national military forces, but U.S. forces always retain the inherent right and obligation to defend themselves from hostile acts," they continued. "The international Coalition’s mission in northeast Syria is to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS."

Contact the author: Thomas@thedrive.com