US MQ-9 drone crashes over Black Sea after collision with Russian aircraft
MQ-9 Reaper (Photo:Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt via Wikipedia)
A Russian Su-27 military aircraft has intercepted and purposefully collided with a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone over Black Sea international waters, U.S. European Command said in a press release on March 14.
According to the message, two Russian Su-27 aircraft intercepted the UAV while it was conducting surveillance in international airspace over the Black Sea.
“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,” commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa, Gen. James Hecker said.
“In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash.”
One Su-27 jet hit the drone’s propeller, causing it to sink in international waters.
“Several times before the collision, the Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner,” the report reads.
“This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional.”
White House National Security spokesman John Kirby said Washington will contact Moscow to discuss the incident, Voice of America journalist Jeff Seldin reported via Twitter.
“Russian intercept and collision of UQ MQ-9 over the Black Sea ‘noteworthy because of how unsafe and unprofessional’ it was, per National Security Council spox John Kirby,” Seldin wrote.
Kirby later told CNN the Untied States will not pause air surveillance flights over the Black Sea after the incident.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price subsequently said that Russia’s Ambassador to the United States has been summoned over the incident.
A senior U.S. military official told The New York Times the drone was flying unarmed, conducting a routine 10-hour long reconnaissance flight after taking off from an airbase in Romania. The MQ-9 was 120 kilometers away from Russia-occupied Crimea when it was intercepted by two Su-27 jets.
According to the report, Russian pilots first attempted to "blind" and disable the UAV by jettisoning fuel over it, hoping to interfere with its cameras and sensors.
Russian Defense Ministry claimed the U.S. drone "lost control" on its own and fell into the sea near occupied Crimea. Moscow's account of the incident insists Russian pilots "did not use onboard weapons or make contact with the aircraft."
Pentagon spokesperson Gen. Pat Ryder later clarified that Russian jets did not shoot the MQ-9 down, saying that the drone was controlled by the U.S. military until it hit water.
MQ-9 Reaper is the main strike drone of the U.S. military. It can carry AGM-114 precision-guided missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs, AIM-9X air-to-air missiles and other weapons. The MQ-9 Reaper is capable of detecting an enemy on the ground through cloud cover and can operate autonomously for up to 27 hours.
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