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Russia Downs US Drone In Crimea

By Danny Weller

Photo: US Air Force


An American MQ-9 Reaper military drone crashed on Tuesday, March 14, near the Russian coastline following an encounter with two Russian fighter jets. US Officials claim the aircraft was rammed by a Russian plane, while their Russian counterparts maintain it crashed after it was forced to take evasive action. Regardless, this incident marks the first time since the end of the Cold War that the Russian Air Force has downed an American aircraft.


The Pentagon has refused to disclaim where the drone was, its purpose in Russian airspace, its offensive capabilities or its mission beyond that of surveillance. However, the Pentagon did not deny Russia’s allegations that the drone’s transponder was turned off and was heading towards Russian airspace.


The drone was reportedly flying 75 miles southwest of Crimea, 100-150 miles from the Russian mainland. This drone likely formed part of the US surveillance operations over the Black Sea and NATO airspace, which are a critical component of Ukrainian Armed Forces’ operations. As the Washington Post reported in February, nearly all long-range missile strikes launched by the Ukrainian military relied on targeting provided by the United States.


The Pentagon has claimed that this flight was “routine”, yet Rand Corporation political scientist Samuel Charap has stated, “I would bet the MQ-9 was operating in an area that was of particular military significance to Moscow.”


This crash comes at a key moment in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, with NATO powers as well as the US increasing their involvement in the war, sending long-range missiles and M1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks to Ukraine


Hours after the Pentagon announced the downing of the drone, Politico reported that a group of Republican and Democrat senators called on the Pentagon to send F-16 fighters to Ukraine. The group stated “we believe the U.S. needs to take a hard look at providing F-16 aircraft to Ukraine. This would be a significant capability that could prove to be a game changer on the battlefield.”


This would necessitate a significant expansion of US involvement in the conflict, including setting up logistical systems and supply chains to help maintain highly complex pieces of equipment like the F-16 fighter jet.


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