The US military unveiled footage on Thursday that depicts the incident involving an American drone and a Russian fighter jet that took place in the international airspace of the Black Sea.
On March 14, a US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone was engaged in an “unsafe/unprofessional intercept” by a Russian Su-27 aircraft over the Black Sea, stated the US European Command.
The declassified video footage revealed that the Russian Su-27 fighter jet hit the US reconnaissance drone, resulting in damage to its propeller. During the encounter, the Russian jet also dumped fuel while passing over the MQ-9 drone, leading to a temporary loss of video transmission from the surveillance UAV.
As a result of the incident, the US military had no option but to bring down the unmanned drone in the international waters of the Black Sea.
“Two Russian jets dumped fuel on an unmanned U.S. MQ-9 aircraft carrying out regular operations in international airspace. And one Russian jet intercepted and hit our MQ-9 aircraft, resulting in a crash.”
During a press conference on Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin remarked, “Two Russian jets dumped fuel on an unmanned U.S. MQ-9 aircraft carrying out regular operations in international airspace. And one Russian jet intercepted and hit our MQ-9 aircraft, resulting in a crash.”
In a statement, James B. Hecker, the commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa, stated, “Several times before the collision, the Su-27s flew in front of the MQ-9 and dumped fuel in a reckless, environmentally unsound, and unprofessional manner. This occurrence exemplifies not only a lack of competence but also unsafety and unprofessionalism.”
The graphic below depicts approximations of the locations and times of the @usairforce MQ-9 Reaper collision and crash into the Black Sea. The video released earlier today by @US_EUCOM occurs at the middle plot point on the timeline. pic.twitter.com/nz8fTzL4ZG
— USAFE-AFAFRICA (@HQUSAFEAFAF) March 16, 2023
Heckler went on to add, “This incident is part of a trend of risky actions by Russian pilots while interacting with US and allied aircraft in international airspace, including over the Black Sea. These hostile actions by Russian aircrew are risky and have the potential to cause miscalculations and unintended escalation.”
Russia, on the other hand, accused the United States of initiating the airborne incident.
As per CBS News, “Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed that Shoigu had informed Austin that the collision was a consequence of ‘increased [U.S.] intelligence activities against the interests of the Russian Federation’ and ‘non-compliance with the restricted flight zone’ announced by Moscow during its ongoing conflict in Ukraine.”
The Russian Defense Ministry stated that it would respond “in a proportional manner” to any future U.S. “provocations” in the region.
“Russia is not interested in such a development, but it will continue to respond proportionately to all provocations.”
“Flights of American strategic unmanned aerial vehicles off the coast of Crimea are seen as provocative, which paves the way for an escalation of the situation in the Black Sea zone,” stated the Russian Defense Ministry. “Russia is not interested in such a development, but it will continue to respond proportionately to all provocations.”
In a statement, Austin affirmed, “The United States will continue to operate and fly in accordance with international law, and it is the responsibility of Russia to conduct its military aircraft in a safe and professional manner.”
As per NBC News, three defense officials and one Biden administration official claimed that Russia is actively searching for the downed U.S. drone using ships and aircraft.
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated at a news conference on Wednesday that the MQ-9 drone is likely submerged 4,000-5,000 feet beneath the Black Sea, and the recovery process will be “extremely challenging.”
Milley stated that while the U.S. has no ships in the area of the crash, it has “a lot of allies and friends in the area” who can help with the recovery effort.
In a press conference, Milley clarified, “We are aware that the interception was intentional. We are aware that the hostile conduct was intentional. We also know it was very hazardous and unprofessional.”
“I’m not going to comment on whether this is an act of war. Incidents occur,” added Milley. “And clearly, we have no intention of engaging in armed conflict with Russia.”
“I’m not going to comment on whether this is an act of war. Incidents occur,” added Milley. “And clearly, we have no intention of engaging in armed conflict with Russia. At this point, we should investigate the occurrence and move forward, but we will persist in exercising our rights in international airspace.”