Politics An F-18 just became the first US aircraft to shoot down a manned fighter since 1999

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With Russia announcing plans to target US aircraft in certain situations, there could be more air-to-air combat in the near future.

The USS George H.W. Bush. play

The USS George H.W. Bush.

(US Navy)

A US F/A-18 took off from the USS George H. W. Bush in the Mediterranean on Sunday and shot down a Syrian Su-22 the US said had dropped bombs near US-backed forces.

The US had not shot down a manned aircraft since 1999.

The focus of the US's airpower in recent years has turned to providing air support against insurgencies or forces that do not have fighter jets of their own.

An F-18 aboard the USS George H.W. Bush showing its air-to-ground heavy loadout. play

An F-18 aboard the USS George H.W. Bush showing its air-to-ground heavy loadout.

(DoD photo)

The F/A-18, the ubiquitous fighter aboard all US aircraft carriers, has seen its combat role shift almost solely to air-to-ground. In April 2016, just 3 1/2 months into a deployment, aircraft from the USS Harry Truman alone had dropped 1,118 bombs as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, then the most of any carrier during the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

But pilots aboard the Bush could see more air-to-air.

On Monday, Russia said it would treat all US and US-led-coalition jets operating in Syria west of the Euphrates River as targets for its air force. Russia has a few dozen fighter and bomber jets stationed in Syria, while the US has a carrier wing aboard the Bush and a few other squadrons at the nearby Udeid and Incirlik air bases.

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