According to the Pentagon statement, the drone was flying “on a routine mission” in international airspace over the Black Sea when it was intercepted by two Russian Su-27 fighter jets. One of those fighter jets is said to have struck the drone’s propeller with its wing.
The US Air Force says the collision was the result of “unprofessional behavior by the Russians”. Prior to impact, the Su-27 fighter jets dumped fuel on the drone several times, according to the Pentagon, which speaks of a “reckless, unfriendly, and unprofessional” act.
A White House spokesperson said such interceptions are more common, but that a drone crash is “unique”. President Biden has been briefed on the incident. The US State Department contacted Moscow about this.
Dangerous behavior pattern
Russia denies this accusation. According to a statement from the Russian Defense Ministry, there was no collision at all, but the drone suddenly headed down sharply to crash into the sea. Moscow also accuses America of flying the drone towards the Russian border, near Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Russia annexed in February 2014.
Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov, who has been called to account by the US government, says that Russia sees the incident as a provocation, but that it is also not looking for confrontation with the United States.
According to the US military, there is “a pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots while interacting with US and allied aircraft in international airspace.” These “may lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation.”
No more confrontation
NATO diplomats in Brussels confirmed the incident, but said it was not expected to lead to further confrontation. The Supreme Military Commander of the Alliance has informed the NATO member states.
A Pentagon spokesperson did not say if the Department of Defense would attempt to recover the drone, but noted that in no way has Russia done so. The United States itself does not have warships in the Black Sea.
The MQ-9 Reaper drone is a 20-meter long flying drone intended for high-altitude surveillance. America indicates that it will continue to perform such routine missions in the airspace.
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