On the 14th, a US unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV/drone) crashed over the Black Sea, south of Ukraine, as a provocation by a Russian fighter jet.
According to the US European Command, a US Air Force MQ-9 ‘Reaper’ drone collided with a Russian Air Force Su-27 fighter jet over the Black Sea at 7:03 am on the same day and fell into the sea .
The European Command said in a statement that day, “The MQ-9, which was performing routine operations in international airspace, was shot down in an unsafe and unprofessional manner.” It added that it interfered with the activities of the MQ -9 by causing “reckless flight”.
On this day, the US military authorities said that two Russian Su-27s were scrambled to disrupt the reconnaissance and surveillance activities of the US military MQ-9.
The US military explained that one of them hit the propeller at the back of the MQ-9, forcing the drone to crash into international airspace.
On this day, the White House said that it had immediately reported the incident to President Joe Biden, adding that the State Department would convey its situation of concern to Russia.
The Black Sea, where the incident took place, is an inland sea between south-east Europe and Asia, bordering war-torn southern Ukraine.
The Su-27, launched by Russia on this day, is a multipurpose twin-engine fighter that was the main aircraft of the Russian Air Force in the past.
Between the United States and Russia, there have been frequent close air missions to block the entry of military aircraft from the other country’s airspace.
However, this is almost the first time since the Cold War that military aircraft have collided head-on in this way.
■ Russia “US drone crashed alone”
Russian officials said there was no collision and that the US MQ-9 crashed.
The Russian Ministry of Defense announced on the 14th that “a US drone overran the airspace border temporarily set by Russia for a ‘special military operation’ and lost control and crashed.”
‘Special military operation’ is the Russian authorities’ term for the war in Ukraine.
The Russian Defense Ministry added that “the Russian fighters did not use weapons (against the US MQ-9) and did not contact.”
Previously, Russia has repeatedly demanded that the US military stop such actions, saying it was passing on information obtained through various reconnaissance and surveillance assets as well as weapons support to the Ukrainian military.
■ US Department of Defense “A reconnaissance flight, something that has been done before”
In this regard, Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder said in a regular briefing on the 14th, “MQ-9 reconnaissance flights over the Black Sea (in Ukraine) have taken place before the conflict began.” It’s not uncommon,” he said.
As to whether the video containing the circumstances of the confrontation should be released, the declassification process is underway.
The Pentagon added that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had not contacted Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
■ Arranged in strategic security points
The MQ-9 Reaper is an advanced US military drone, which is the successor to the MQ-1 ‘Predator’.
It can be armed with ‘Hellfire’ air-to-surface missiles, and is nicknamed ‘Sky Assassin’ for its powerful performance.
It can fly for up to 20 hours at an altitude of 25,000 feet in fully armed condition with a range of 6,000 km.
In January 2020, the United States used the MQ-9 in an operation to eliminate Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards.
In October last year, we also sent an MQ-9 to Japan.
It is believed that the US MQ-9 that crashed this time was sorted from a base in Romania. The distance from that base to the Black Sea is about 450 km.
The US military has been increasing reconnaissance and surveillance activities against Russia while reinforcing MQ-9s in Eastern Europe since before the war in Ukraine.
In 2017, the aircraft was sent to the 71st Air Base in Kampiaturj, Romania, and the following year to Miroslaviek Air Base in northeastern Poland.
This is VOA News Jongsu Oh.