An incident involving a US-made Reaper drone took place over the Black Sea. According to US military forces in Europe, the drone was shot down by a Russian Su-27 aircraft.
Su-27 fighter jets dropped fuel in front of the drone, then one of them collided with an MQ-9 Reaper operating in international airspace over the Black Sea, causing the drone to crash, USEUCOM said in a statement.
“One of the Russian Su-27 aircraft hit the propeller of the MQ-9 drone. Several times before the collision, the Su-27s jettisoned fuel and flew in front of the drone in a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner. This incident demonstrates a lack of competence, in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional,” the statement said. The incident almost led to the crash of the Russian plane.
US military forces in Europe also say the drone was conducting a routine operation in international airspace when the two Russian jets tried to intercept it. “US and allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace, and we call on the Russians to behave professionally and within safe parameters,” said General James B. Hecker, commander of US forces in Europe and Africa.
This incident is part of a “pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots” interacting with US and allied aircraft in international airspace, including over the Black Sea. “These aggressive actions by the Russian crew are dangerous and could lead to unintended escalation,” the statement added.
The MQ-9 drone shot down over the Black Sea took off from Romania, the New York Times reports on Wednesday, citing an American military official. The publication notes that they looked shocked at the images transmitted by the drone, in which it can be seen how it was “harassed” by Russian Su-27 fighter jets.
The drone took off on Tuesday morning from a base in Romania (which hosts such devices at Câmpia Turzii – n.r.) for a scheduled reconnaissance mission, which usually lasts 9-10 hours, NYT notes. These unmanned aerial vehicles can carry Hellfire missiles, but the one sent on Monday’s mission was unarmed and was performing a reconnaissance mission about 120 kilometers southwest of the Crimean peninsula when it was intercepted by Russian Su-27 jets, the official said. American quoted by NYT.
The MQ-9 drone, which was flying at an altitude of more than 7,500 meters, is equipped with sophisticated cameras and sensors that can monitor Crimea from international airspace – a regular mission, the official added. But Monday’s mission took a dangerous turn. Russian Su-27 fighter jets, much faster than the MQ-9 drone, flew around it and dropped fuel, apparently trying to jam its video cameras or damage its sensors, the source said. Times. The incident shocked U.S. military officials who were watching from the U.S. military base in Ramstein, Germany, as footage was streamed from the attacked drone itself. US officials have feared for months that an incident over the Black Sea could lead to a confrontation.
US top institutions react
The United States has briefed allies about Russia’s downing of a US Reaper drone over the Black Sea, according to the State Department.
The US was “not in position to speak to what the Russians intended to do” with the maneuvers that brought the drone down, but noted that “the motivations matter much less than what actually transpired,” said spokesperson Ned Price.
“We are in a position to speak to what happened and what happened was an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver on the part of a Russian aircraft, a maneuver that was also tinged with a lack of competence that caused the US military to need to bring this unmanned craft down. That is the result again of these Russian actions. We can characterize them, but we can’t characterize the motivations,” he said at a State Department briefing.
The United States has been conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in international waters in the Black Sea “for some time,” including before Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, a Pentagon spokesperson also explained Tuesday after the incident. “The key point here is that while intercepts in and of themselves are not that uncommon, … this type of behavior from these Russian pilots, that is uncommon and unfortunate and unsafe,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, as quoted by CNN.
Ryder said that Russia has not recovered the downed drone.
Ryder would not say whether the MQ-9 drone was armed, but added that the Defense Department is working to declassify imagery from the intercept.
US summons Russian ambassador over drone incident
The US State Department has also summoned the Russian ambassador to convey its “strong objections” to the downing of a US Reaper drone over the Black Sea, a spokesperson said.
The “high-level engagement” with Ambassador Anatoly Antonov was expected to take place later Tuesday afternoon, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.
During the meeting, the ambassador will “hear directly from senior officials about our strong objections to what was clearly an unsafe and unprofessional intercept on the part of a Russian aircraft,” the spokesperson said.
In Moscow, US Ambassador Lynne Tracy “has conveyed a strong message to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs” about the incident, according to Price.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently traveling and is not in Washington, DC.
Romanian President’s stance
President Klaus Iohannis described as “serious and regrettable” the incident on Tuesday over the Black Sea, where a drone crashed due to Russian planes.
“The incident with a drone that happened yesterday is serious and regrettable. The official communication is made by the American side,” stated Klaus Iohannis, while answering a question. He made these statements in a press conference held alongside the President of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev, in Sofia.