A U.S. drone collided mid-air with a Russian fighter jet on Tuesday, the Department of Defense said, resulting in the drone crashing into the Black Sea.
The Pentagon said that two Russian aircraft had been flying around the MQ-9 drone in a “reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner,” before also dumping fuel in front of the drone.
One of the Su-27 jets struck the drone’s propeller, causing the unmanned drone to go down. Officials said that the crash resulted in a “complete loss” of the drone.
“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,” said Gen. James B.
Hecker, commander of the U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa. “In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both
aircraft to crash,” he said.
Russia has denied the accusations, claiming there was no collision at all and that the drone fell into the water due to its own maneuvering.
Both U.S. and Russian aircraft have been flying over the Black Sea since the start of the war in Ukraine, but this is the first known instance of a potentially escalated interaction between the two countries. All aircraft had been flying in international airspace.
President Joe Biden had been briefed on the incident this morning, according to White House national security spokesman John Kirby.
Kirby added that while intercepts like these are not uncommon, what made this incident unique were the “unsafe” and “reckless” maneuvers by the Russian pilots.
The U.S. said the incident was part of a “pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots” and warned it could lead to “miscalculation and unintended escalation.”
Kirby said that U.S. officials, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, had not been in contact with their Russian counterparts since the collision.
Hecker called on the Russians “to conduct themselves professionally and
safely” while interacting with U.S. and allies’ aircraft over international airspace.
The View From Russia
The Russian Defense Ministry denied there was any collision, telling Russian news agency TASS that the drone went into an “uncontrolled flight” after “sharp maneuvering” and fell into the water.
“Russian fighters did not use airborne weapons, they did not come into contact with an unmanned aerial vehicle and safely returned to their base airfield,” the military department told TASS.