On Tuesday, the U.S. military reported that a Russian fighter jet compelled a United States Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone to land in the Black Sea. The incident occurred when two Russian Su-27 jets flew alongside the American drone, damaging its propeller and causing it to lose control. Additionally, the Russian plane also dumped fuel on the drone multiple times. This incident is believed to have taken place as a form of intimation and indicates the ongoing tensions between the U.S. and Russia in the region.
A collision between a Russian fighter jet & a US drone has caused the uncrewed aircraft to crash into the Black Sea. This occurrence is a stark reminder of the escalating risk of direct conflict between Russia & the US regarding the ongoing Ukraine war.#drone #UkraineRussiaWar pic.twitter.com/HOAT5Ld02Z
— News Live (@NewsLiveFree) March 15, 2023
The U.S. European Command released a statement detailing the event. According to the latest statement released by U.S. European Commission Command, the MQ-9 drone was forced to land in international waters after its propeller was hit by a Russian fighter jet. The recent incident occurred after the Russian-armed aircraft had flown near the drone for around 30 to 40 minutes.
The collision occurred just after 07:00 am Central European Time, resulting in the complete loss of the MQ-9 drone. Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder confirmed that the Russian aircraft intentionally collided with the drone. The U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa Commander, Air Force General James B. Hecker, described the incident as an unprofessional and unsafe act that nearly caused both aircraft to crash.
U.S.-Russia Tensions Rise After Russian Fighter Jet Downs American Drone
The recent incident involving a Russian fighter jet and a U.S. drone in the Black Sea has heightened tensions between the two nations, marking the first time their military aircraft have come into direct physical contact since Russia’s actions as “reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional.” The incident has further escalated the already tense relationship between Russia and the U.S. In response to the incident, the Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, was summoned to the State Department. Antonov stated that Russia doesn’t want to create a situation where unintended clashes or incidents occur between the two countries.
Following his summoning to the State Department, Antonov had a constructive conversation with Assistant Secretary Karen Donfried, during which the U.S.’ concerns regarding the recent incident with the MQ-9 drone were conveyed. Antonov acknowledged that there were differences between the two nations but claimed that they were able to exchange remarks on the issue. He expressed his hope that Donfried understood his points. In addition, Antonov stated that Moscow had previously informed about the designated zone for special military operations where the incident occurred.
He reiterated Moscow’s denial of the incident involving the MQ-9 drone and the Russian fighter jet, which the Russian Ministry of Defense previously stated. The ministry claimed that the fighter jets were scrambled to identify an intruder detected over the Black Sea and that the drone went into an unspecified flight with a loss of altitude. According to the ministry, the drone flew with its transponders turned off. It violated the boundaries of the provisional airspace regime designated for the special military operation, which was communicated to all users of international airspace and published by international standards.
Unprofessional and Reckless
National Security Council communications coordinator John Kirby confirmed that President Joe Biden was briefed on the incident involving the MQ-9 drone and the Russian fighter jet by national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Tuesday morning. However, Defense Department officials still need to communicate with Russian authorities specifically regarding the incident, according to Brig. Gen. Ryder. Meanwhile, State Department Ned Price said the U.S. has engaged with its allies and high-level partners to provide them with information on the incident.
While Price didn’t speculate on Russia’s intentions with the maneuvers, he emphasized that the transpired events were more important than their intent. Kirby acknowledged that it is not unusual for Russian aircraft to intercept U.S. aircraft over the Black Sea and confirmed other intercepts in recent weeks. However, he noted that Tuesday’s incident was particularly alarming due to the “unsafe, unprofessional and reckless” nature of Russian actions. The Defense Department is now working to declassify imagery from the incident.
During an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday, Kirby stated that the U.S. had implemented measures to safeguard their interests regarding the drone. Kirby added that they don’t want anyone other than the U.S. to possess the drone. He also dismissed Russia’s denial of responsibility, advising people to be cautious when accepting information from Russia regarding their activities in and around Ukraine. Kirby further stated that the U.S. regards the Russian actions as dangerous.
The First Known Interaction
Russian and U.S. military aircraft have operated over the Black Sea during the ongoing Ukraine war. However, the recent incident where a Russian fighter jet reportedly physically contacted a U.S. Reaper drone marks the first known direct interaction between the two nations in the area, escalating tensions at a critical time in the fighting.
The U.S. has been utilizing Reaper drones for surveillance over the Black Sea since the beginning of the conflict. These drones are equipped with the latest sensors and can gather intelligence and perform reconnaissance for long periods of time, making them an ideal tool for tracking battlefield movements and activities in the Black Sea region. According to the U.S. Air Force, Reaper drones can fly as high as fifty thousand feet, making them difficult to detect and intercept.
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