Watch a Russian Fighter Jet Collide With a U.S. Drone Near Ukraine

Screenshot:  US European Command (DVIDShub) (Other)
Screenshot: US European Command (DVIDShub) (Other)

The United States Pentagon released dramatic footage this morning recovered from an unmanned U.S. Air Force drone that was knocked out of the sky in international airspace over the Black Sea, just off the coast of Crimea, by a Russian fighter jet this week. The video from Tuesday’s incident, which you can watch below, shows two Russian Su-27 fighter jets passing over the American drone — first dumping fuel on the unmanned aircraft, and then striking it. The drone crashed into the Black Sea, and the U.S. Air Force is now working to recover the wreckage.

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According to CBS, the U.S. characterized the Russian pilots’ maneuvers as “unsafe and unprofessional.” Now, the race is on to recover the wreckage: On Wednesday, a Russian official vowed that the Russian government would attempt to salvage the remains of the drone, which crashed into the Black Sea and is now likely several thousand feet underwater. At a Pentagon news briefing on Wednesday, U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, indicates that American forces will also try to recover the downed drone. “That’s U.S. property,” Milley said, according to CBS. “There’s probably not a lot to recover, frankly.”

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CBS further reports that Russian forces have already reached the site of the crash, and may even be able to recover some small pieces of the downed drone. But at the Pentagon briefing yesterday, Milley assured reporters that any sensitive information stored on the drone was remotely wiped in the moments after the crash with Russian aircraft.

“We are quite confident that whatever was of value is no longer of value,” Milley said to reporters.

The onboard video released this morning shows two close-range passes by Russian fighter jets. On the first pass, the Su-27 comes close to the drone but does not contact it, dumping fuel on the Predator drone. On the second pass, the Russian jet allegedly strikes the U.S. drone’s propeller, forcing U.S. Air Force operators to bring the drone down in international waters, according to U.S. European Command.

US Air Force MQ-9 Camera Footage: Russian Su-27 Black Sea Collision | VOANews

The caption of the official video reads:

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 operating within international airspace over the Black Sea on March 14, 2023. Russian Su-27s dumped fuel upon and struck the propeller of the MQ-9, causing U.S. forces to have to bring the MQ-9 down in international waters.

The U.S. Air Force says the declassified video was edited for length, however, “the events are depicted in sequential order.”

As CBS reports, Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder would not tell reporters whether the drone was armed at the time of the incident with the Russian jets. The MQ-9 has been used for surveillance and armed strikes since it was first introduced in 2001. It’s known to the U.S. Air Force as a “Remotely Piloted Aircraft,” meaning it is controlled by a human operator on the ground, sometimes thousands of miles away.

At the Pentagon briefing on Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “The United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows, and it is incumbent upon Russia to operate its military aircraft in a safe and professional manner,” CBS reports.

Austin said he had a conversation with Sergei Shoigu, his Russian counterpart, after the incident. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Shoigu characterized the incident to Austin as the result of “increased [U.S.] intelligence activities against the interests of the Russian Federation,” along with “non-compliance with the restricted flight zone,” according to CBS.

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