On the 14th of March, a US MQ-9 Reaper Drone conducting surveillance and on a reconnaissance mission over the Black Sea was intercepted by two Russian Su-27 fighter jets, resulting in the drone crashing into the Black Sea. Impact’s Mike Wong reports.
According to footage released by US Officials, one of the Russian fighter jets dumped fuel over the drone, damaging its propeller and resulting in the drone crashing into the Black Sea.
The drone crash led to the US summoning the Russian Ambassador, Anatoly Antonov, to the US State Department, to explain the actions of the Russian fighter jets towards the US Drone. The US condemned the actions of the Russian fighter jets, as US National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby condemned the incident and said this case “is noteworthy because of how unsafe and unprofessional it was, indeed, reckless that it was.”
the Russian navy may have recovered some debris
According to CNN, US officials also believe that the order to harass and intercept the US Drone was given by the Russian Ministry of Defense to its Air Force, to harass and intimidate the US Drone operating in international waters in the Black Sea.
The US also stated that retrieving the drone was going to be difficult in the Black Sea, as the US did not have many naval assets, whilst in contrast, the Russian Black Sea Fleet was stationed there, and the crash site of the drone was close to Crimea, which meant that it would be easy for Russia to retrieve the drone themselves. The Secretary of the Russian Federation’s National Security Council Nikolai Patrushev stated that they would try to recover the downed US Drone.
On the 16th of March, US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to CNN, stated that the Russian navy may have recovered some debris, but only managed to pick up pieces of the US Drone as sensitive intel and records stored on the drone were destroyed, making it impossible for the Russians to recover. The US Air force also described the actions of the Russian air force as “reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional”.
The Russian reaction, on the contrary, slammed the US for sending its drone close to Russian territory, viewing this “incident as a provocation”, in the words of Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the US, and Russia’s Defense Ministry claiming that they didn’t down it, but rather, the US Drone, having its transponders turned off, crashed due to manoeuvring in a harsh manner, and on Russian State TV, the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu awarded the two pilots who took down the US Drone with state awards.
Surveillance is often conducted in the Black Sea to feed Ukraine’s military with information
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated that these accidents were going to happen if Crimea remained under Russian control and that the West did not plan to back down to Russia. The US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin vowed to continue aerial reconnaissance missions across the Black Sea, recognising it as an international zone, and Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon’s Spokesperson, stated that, “intercepts of aircraft are not uncommon in and of themselves just wanting to see what’s there”.
The drone incident came at a time when US-Russian relations were at an all-time low due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Surveillance is often conducted in the Black Sea to feed Ukraine’s military with information about Russian troop and navy movements. But the US and its allies do not want to risk war with the Russians, considering that Russia is the 2nd largest nuclear state, as a US-Russia war could mean a nuclear war between the two largest nuclear states.
Featured image courtesy of Ant Rozetsky via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.
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