Defense Department officials on Thursday held a video conference with the Russian Ministry of Defense to discuss the implementation of the joint memorandum of understanding between the two countries on flight safety over Syria. “The two sides discussed measures to enhance operational safety for counter-ISIL coalition and Russian military forces operating in Syria, including the means to avoid accidents and unintended confrontation between coalition and Russian forces whenever the two sides operate in close proximity,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement. The two sides have held multiple video conferences since the agreement was signed Oct. 20. The US side of the discussion was co-chaired by Elissa Slotkin, the acting assistant secretary for international security affairs, and Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the joint staff director for strategic plans and policy. The meeting came three days after a Russian Su-27 Flanker intercepted an Air Force RC-135U in international airspace over the Black Sea. The interception was conducted in an “unsafe and unprofessional manner,” according to a Pentagon statement. The Pentagon did not say if this intercept was discussed with Russian officials.
The Pentagon awarded a contract worth over $2 billion for the next batch of F-35 engines to Pratt & Whitney on June 5. The deal for Lot 17 F135 engines, totaling $2.02 billion, is expected to be completed by December 2025.