The wingman of a Russian pilot who was downed by terrorist forces in Syria fought to the last to protect his commander, strafing terrorist forces converging on the crash site until he had no fuel left.
“I’m hit… The right engine’s ablaze… Heading south… The left one [engine] is stalling as well… Call an search-and-rescue team,” Major Roman Filipov radioed his wingman after the ill-fated pilot’s warplane was hit by a surface-to-air missile, ordering his compatriot to “head for the clouds” to avoid sharing the same fate, according to Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star), the official newspaper of the Russian Ministry of Defense.
The wingman, however, refused to abandon his commander and, instead of fleeing to safety, engaged the enemy ground forces in a desperate attempt to cover the downed pilot’s escape.
“When a MANPAD took out commander’s aircraft, all bets were off. I’ve always covered him in the air, now it was time to do the same on the ground where he was fighting. So I remained there and made several attack runs against vehicles approaching the grove where Roman was hiding. Took out two cars,” he said.
The wingman also added that he immediately alerted a search and rescue team and kept broadcasting the downed pilot coordinates to the command center.
“I’ve seen the commander’s landing area but not the fight itself as the sun was setting… Had to leave when I was down to the emergency fuel reserves, barely made it to the airfield,” he said.
Filipov’s Su-25 was downed by a MANPAD portable surface-to-air missile during a mission in the Syrian province of Idlib, over an area controlled by the terrorist group Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra).
The pilot managed to eject and land safely on the ground but was immediately surrounded by terrorist forces. Refusing to surrender, Major Filipov fought to the last and in the end – outnumbered, outgunned, out of ammo and heavily injured – blew himself up with a hand grenade.
The terrorist organization Tahrir al-Sham, which was linked to an offshoot of al-Qaeda, reportedly claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.
In retaliation, the Russian forces launched a precision strike in the area from where the MANPAD missile was launched, wiping out over 30 Jabhat Fatah al-Sham terrorists.
Russian military intelligence, with the assistance of their Turkish colleagues, managed to recover Filipov’s body and bring it back home to Russia to be interred with full military honors.
Major Filippov was posthumously decorated by President Vladimir Putin as a Hero of the Russian Federation, his nation’s highest honorary title.