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U.S., Russia warplanes conduct communications test over Syria

Pilots from the United States and Russia conducted a communications test over Syria, the Pentagon said Tuesday, downplaying Moscow's assertion that the two nations had carried out a joint military training exercise.

"One US Fighter aircraft conducted a planned communications test with one Russian fighter aircraft per the provisions of the flight safety (memorandum of understanding) agreed to by both nations," the Pentagon said in a statement. "The purpose of the test was to validate the safety protocols established (in) the memorandum of understanding."

The pilots didn't speak to each other but back to their respective command centers which used the hotline to communicate with each other, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.

The Pentagon said that the two planes flew within five miles of one another in the skies of south central Syria. The test lasted approximately three minutes.

Earlier Tuesday, Russia's defense ministry had characterized the flight as a joint military exercise.

Last month, the U.S. and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding over safety procedures for aircraft flying over Syria. The memo includes specific protocols for air crews to follow over Syria, and establishes a ground communications link.

Meanwhile, Martin reports, Russia appears to be making a real move toward attacking the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Syrian town of Palmyra, which was captured over the summer by the extremists. They have moved five helicopters to an airfield near the town of Tijas, which is about 50 kilometers from Palmyra.

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