Home World Russia downs U.S. Reaper surveillance drone over Black Sea

Russia downs U.S. Reaper surveillance drone over Black Sea



Russian fighter jets intercepted and forced down an American surveillance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday, U.S. officials said, with one of the warplanes colliding with the unmanned aircraft’s propeller after both jets dumped fuel on it.

The incident, occurring around 7 a.m. local time, prompted Air Force personnel remotely operating the MQ-9 Reaper to bring it down in international waters. U.S. officials characterized the encounter as being part of a “pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots” while interacting with American and allied aircraft in international airspace. The high-risk maneuvers, carried about by Russian Su-27s, were “reckless and environmentally unsound,” the officials said, warning that such provocations could lead to “miscalculation and unintended escalation” between the two powers.

“Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9,” said Gen. James B. Hecker, a senior military official overseeing Air Force operations in the region. “In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash.”

It was not immediately clear where over the Black Sea the incident occurred or what mission the drone was conducting. U.S. military officials also did not immediately specify what other recent actions by Russian pilots fit into the pattern of dangerous activity that they described.

The Russian Defense Ministry denied striking the MQ-9 and claimed instead that, “as a result of sharp maneuvering,” the drone was observed by Russian pilots in “uncontrolled flight” before losing altitude and crashing into the sea. Jets were scrambled, officials said in a statement, when the American aircraft was detected flying “in the direction of the state border of the Russian Federation” with its transponders turned off,” what they characterized as a violation of boundaries established by Moscow for its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

“The Russian fighters did not use airborne weapons, did not come into contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle and returned safely to their base airfield,” the statement says.

A State Department spokesman, Ned Price, told reporters that senior U.S. officials would be in contact with their Russian counterparts to communicate “our strong objections.”

“We are summoning the Russian ambassador to the department where we will convey this message,” Price said, adding that, in Moscow, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Lynne M. Tracy, had relayed the Biden administration’s dissatisfaction to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Primary function: Intelligence collection

in support of strike, coordination

and reconnaissance missions.

Crew (remote): Two (pilot and sensor operator)

Ceiling: Up to 50,000 feet

Note: Data current as of March 2021

Primary function: Intelligence collection in support of strike, coordination

and reconnaissance missions.

Ceiling: Up to 50,000 feet

Crew (remote): Two (pilot and sensor operator)

Note: Data current as of March 2021

White House spokesman John Kirby said that President Biden was briefed about the incident on Tuesday morning by national security adviser Jake Sullivan. While intercepts of aircraft happen with some frequency, Kirby said, “this one, obviously, is noteworthy because of how unsafe [and] indeed reckless” the Su-27s were “in causing the downing of one of our aircraft.”

U.S. and Russian militaries set up years ago a phone line for the “deconfliction” of air operations to avoid collisions and other incidents that could potentially prompt a crisis. Kirby said the Black Sea is “an enormous body of water,” and U.S. aircraft have been flying in international airspace there “consistently” for a year.

“We’re going to continue to do that,” Kirby said. “And we don’t need to have some sort of check-in with the Russians before we fly in international airspace.”

One year of Russia’s war in Ukraine

Portraits of Ukraine: Every Ukrainian’s life has changed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion one year ago — in ways both big and small. They have learned to survive and support each other under extreme circumstances, in bomb shelters and hospitals, destroyed apartment complexes and ruined marketplaces. Scroll through portraits of Ukrainians reflecting on a year of loss, resilience and fear.

Battle of attrition: Over the past year, the war has morphed from a multi-front invasion that included Kyiv in the north to a conflict of attrition largely concentrated along an expanse of territory in the east and south. Follow the 600-mile front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces and take a look at where the fighting has been concentrated.

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Deepening global divides: President Biden has trumpeted the reinvigorated Western alliance forged during the war as a “global coalition,” but a closer look suggests the world is far from united on issues raised by the Ukraine war. Evidence abounds that the effort to isolate Putin has failed and that sanctions haven’t stopped Russia, thanks to its oil and gas exports.

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