How Russia shot down an American drone over the Black Sea: the versions of the Russian Federation and the USA are very different - ForumDaily
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How Russia shot down an American drone over the Black Sea: the versions of the Russian Federation and the United States are very different

When a Russian fighter jet collided with a large American reconnaissance drone over the Black Sea on March 14, it was a rare but serious incident. He provoked a diplomatic protest from the United States, according to AP.

Photo: IStock

US and Russian officials had conflicting accounts of the MQ-9 Reaper drone and Russian Su-27 fighter jet colliding, each blaming the other. But a Pentagon spokesman mentioned the possibility that the Department of Defense might eventually declassify and release the video it has of the encounter.

Defense Department officials said parts of the drone were not found. But the Pentagon declined to say if any efforts had been made to collect the debris.

Here's what we know about the accident.

According to the US

The Pentagon and US European Command said two Russian Su-27 jets dropped fuel on an MQ-9 that was on a routine mission to monitor the Black Sea in international airspace. They said the Russian planes flew around and in front of the drone several times for 30-40 minutes and then one of the Russian planes “hit the propeller of the MQ-9, causing US forces to shoot down the MQ-9 in international waters.”

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Air Force General James Hecker, commander of the US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, said that the actions of the Russian aircraft "nearly caused both planes to crash." Pentagon spokesman General Pat Ryder said the collision likely also damaged the Russian fighter, but the Su-27 was able to land. He didn't say where he landed.

A US Defense Department spokesman said they were operating west of Crimea over the Black Sea.

It is unclear whether the collision was accidental or deliberate, but both sides agree that the Russian plane was trying to intercept the drone.

Russian vision of the situation

The Russian Defense Ministry said the U.S. drone flew close to the Russian border and intruded into an area that had been declared off-limits by Russian authorities. The statement said that the Russian military had raised fighter jets to intercept the American drone. It stated that "as a result of a sharp maneuver, the American drone went into uncontrolled flight with a loss of altitude and collided with the water surface."

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Russia has declared vast areas near Crimea off-limits to flights. Since annexing Crimea in 2014 and long before Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Moscow has accused the US of flying U.S. spy planes too close to its borders, ignoring notices issued by Russia.

No country can claim territory restrictions beyond its borders.

The ministry said Russian jets were scrambled to intercept the drone, but did not use their weapons and "did not make contact" with it.

MQ-9 Reaper

The MQ-9 Reaper is a large Air Force drone that is remotely controlled by a team of two. It includes a ground control station and satellite equipment and has a wingspan of 20 meters. The team includes a certified pilot, who is responsible for flying the aircraft, and an enlisted crew member, who is tasked with operating sensors and aiming weapons.

Commonly used during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for surveillance and air strikes, the Reaper can be either armed or unarmed. It can carry up to eight laser-guided missiles, including Hellfire missiles and other complex munitions, and can stay above targets for about 24 hours. It is about 11 meters long, 4 meters high and weighs 2200 kg. It can fly at an altitude of up to 15 kilometers and has a range of about 2500 kilometers.

The Reaper, which first flew in 2007, has replaced the Air Force's smaller Predator drones. Each Reaper costs about $32 million.

Diplomatic tension

The clash sparked a diplomatic outcry.

The US State Department summoned Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov March 14 to a meeting with Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Karen Donfried.

“We are engaging directly with the Russians, again at the highest level, to express our strong objections to this unsafe and unprofessional interception that resulted in the downing of a US drone,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

And White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the US would "express our concerns about this unsafe and unprofessional interception."

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin did not speak to his Russian counterpart about the incident, Ryder said.

Have there been incidents before

This is not the first time Russian planes have flown so close to US planes in the Black Sea. In 2020, Russian jets flew in front of a B-52 bomber that was flying over the Black Sea. They flew at a distance of 30 meters from the nose of the bomber, causing turbulence.

Russian aircraft have also targeted US warships during exercises in the Black Sea. In 2021, Russian warplanes hit the US Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook, which was taking part in a major exercise.
For the most part, however, military intercepts - in the air or at sea - are commonplace and have happened repeatedly to Russian aircraft in the Pacific, especially in the north. Just last month, U.S. fighter jets intercepted two Russian Tu-95 bombers in international airspace off the coast of Alaska and “escorted them” for 12 minutes, according to the Pentagon.

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And Russian aviation performed similar tasks, and also flew over US Navy ships in the Pacific Ocean. In most cases, interception is considered safe and professional.

It is not clear if the Russian pilots wanted to approach the drone and dump fuel on it because they knew it was unmanned and therefore there was no risk to the American pilot or crew. The deliberate shooting down of a manned aircraft with injury or death of the crew members could be considered an act of military aggression.

As ForumDaily wrote earlier:

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