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Russian warplane hit American drone over Black Sea, according to video released by the Pentagon

On Tuesday, March 14, a Russian fighter plane collided with a US drone while the latter was flying over the Black Sea in international airspace.

The crash happened at 7:03 a.m. Central European Time but was communicated only in the afternoon by the U.S. European Command.

According to the reconstruction provided in the press release issued by the U.S. European Command, «Two Russian Su-27 aircraft conducted an unsafe and unprofessional intercept with a U.S. Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance unmanned MQ-9 aircraft that was operating within international airspace over the Black Sea.»

The reconstruction was then confirmed in a video released by the Pentagon on Thursday. The 42-second color video clip does not show the collision, which led the drone’s American operators to bring it down in international waters in the Black Sea. The video shows two high-speed passes by a Su-27 fighter jet, each time spraying a substance that the Pentagon says is jet fuel on the American MQ-9 Reaper drone. On a final pass, one of the Russian jets collides with the drone, and the camera feed is lost for about 60 seconds. The video then resumes, showing the aircraft’s damaged propeller.

The European Command also defined the maneuver of the Russian fighter as "reckless, environmentally unsound, and unprofessional".

John Kirby, the spokesman for the National Security Council of the United States presidency, said that it is not the first time that Russia has carried out such interception operations in the Black Sea during the war in Ukraine, but specified that this one was particularly notable for its dangerousness.

United States National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Kirby used very harsh words to describe the incident. «If the message is that they want to deter or dissuade us from flying, and operating in international airspace, over the Black Sea, then that message will fail. We're going to continue to fly and operate in international airspace over international waters. The Black Sea belongs to no one nation,» Kirby said.

Russia has denied the reconstruction of the facts provided by the United States. According to Anatoly Antonov, Russian Ambassador to the U.S., the drone «was moving deliberately and provocatively toward the Russian territory with its transponders turned off.»

The Russian Ministry of Defense said the drone was flying near Crimea — the Ukrainian territory that Russia illegally annexed in 2014 — and toward the border of the Russian Federation. It said the drone was flying with its identifying transponder off, contrary to the instructions issued by Russia for the airspace over its military operations in Ukraine.

The MQ-9 Reaper is used by the U.S. Air Force to collect intelligence and conduct surveillance, search-and-rescue missions, and precision strikes on high-value and time-sensitive targets, according to an official fact sheet.

The drones have conducted missions over Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, among other countries, and are operated remotely by a team of two out of 20 bases in 17 states. One commands the mission and controls the drone, while the other operates sensors and guides weapons.


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