US RQ-4B Global Hawk Abandons Mission After High-Speed Flyover by Russian MiG-31 Interceptor Above the Black Sea

Incident Overview

On June 26, 2024, an intriguing event occurred in the skies above the Black Sea involving a Russian MiG-31 interceptor and an American RQ-4B Global Hawk drone. While official details are scarce, speculation from sources like the FighterBomber Telegram channel suggests the possibility of the US Air Force reconnaissance drone being targeted.

Speculations and Historical Context

The Russian MiG-31 did not fire or exhibit aggression towards the US drone. According to FighterBomber, this encounter was anticipated following a similar incident on March 14, 2023, when a Russian Su-27 intercepted and damaged an American MQ-9 Reaper drone, leading to its crash into the Black Sea.

The Mission and the Encounter

The RQ-4B Global Hawk commenced its reconnaissance mission over the Black Sea, focusing on the coast of Crimea and penetrating further inland. Unlike the smaller MQ-9 Reaper, the Global Hawk is a massive UAV, capable of staying airborne for hours at altitudes above 16 kilometers.

During the mission, a high-speed MiG-31 flew over the Global Hawk, causing the drone to alter its flight parameters abruptly. This unexpected maneuver led to the drone ending its mission prematurely and returning to its base. Despite flying at speeds of Mach 2.3 (over 2800 kilometers per hour), the MiG-31 did not engage the drone with any weapons.

Official Statements and Theories

Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov stated that there was no information about a US UAV being shot down over the Black Sea. When questioned about Russia’s right to down US reconnaissance drones following a missile attack on Sevastopol, Peskov deferred to the Defence Ministry.

Military Insights

Military correspondent Alexey Zhivov suggested that the RQ-4 Global Hawk could have been aiding Ukrainian forces by guiding ATACMS missiles during the Sevastopol attack. After the attack, the drone reportedly vanished from radar screens.

In 2023, a similar incident involved an American Reaper drone violating airspace boundaries and crashing into the sea after a Russian Su-27 allegedly dumped fuel on it, damaging a propeller. The Russian Defence Ministry claimed the drone’s sharp maneuvers led to its uncontrolled descent.

High-Speed Capabilities

The MiG-31, with a maximum altitude of 21,500 meters and speeds up to 3,100 kilometers per hour, operates at the edge of its performance capabilities during such encounters. The high-speed flight of the MiG-31 over the Global Hawk underscores the tension and complexity of these aerial interactions.

These incidents highlight the ongoing aerial cat-and-mouse game over the Black Sea, with advanced military technology and strategic posturing playing crucial roles.

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