The US military has released drone camera footage capturing the moment a Russian Su-27 fighter jet clipped the propeller of a US MQ-9 Reaper drone, causing it to crash into international waters over the Black Sea.
The incident occurred on March 14, 2023, and resulted in the Russian jet dumping fuel over the drone before the collision.
This confrontation is the first direct encounter between Russia and the US since the war in Ukraine began, and it occurred near Crimea.
The 42-second clip shows one of two Russian jets flying over international waters approach the UAV from behind, causing the drone’s camera to suffer damage.
The jet is then seen dumping fuel as it passes, which is a maneuver used by aircraft in emergency situations to lose weight. The footage ends with the UAV making an emergency landing in international waters.
The incident has triggered fears that such a mistake or misunderstanding could escalate hostilities.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Russian counterpart, Minister Shoigu, on March 15, and emphasized that the United States would continue to fly and operate wherever international law allows.
Russia’s Ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, accused the US of committing an ‘act of provocation,’ while Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen.
Mark Milley confirmed that the intercept was intentional and the aggressive behavior was intentional.
It is unclear whether the collision itself was deliberate, but Moscow previously said it would work to retrieve the wreckage of the $32million drone in what would be a propaganda coup for Vladimir Putin, after earlier warning that it will ‘consider any action with US weaponry as openly hostile.’
The Reaper drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle, often used for reconnaissance and sometimes attached with missiles to conduct precision airstrikes.
The Sukhoi Su-27 is a Soviet twin-engine fighter in operation since 1977, used by the Russian Air Force, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China, and others.