Russian jet dumps fuel on U.S. drone in video released by Pentagon


The incident has sparked concerns that U.S. and Russia could be brought closer to direct conflict

U.S. releases video of Russian jet intercepting drone over Black Sea

1 hour ago
U.S. military releases footage it says is of an encounter Tuesday between a Russian fighter jet and an American drone over the Black Sea. U.S. and Russian officials have released conflicting accounts of the collision between the MQ-9 Reaper drone and the Russian Su-27 fighter jet — each blaming the other.

The Pentagon has released footage of what it says is a Russian aircraft conducting an unsafe intercept of a U.S. air force surveillance drone in international airspace over the Black Sea.

The 42-second video shows a Russian Su-27 approaching the back of the MQ-9 drone and beginning to release fuel as it passes, the Pentagon said. Dumping the fuel appeared to be aimed at blinding its optical instruments and driving it out of the area.

On a second approach, either the same jet or another Russian fighter that had been shadowing the MQ-9 struck the drone's propeller, damaging one blade, according to the U.S. military.

The U.S. military said it ditched the MQ-9 Reaper in the sea after what it described as the Russian fighter making an unsafe intercept of the unmanned aerial vehicle.

The video excerpt released by the Pentagon does not show events before or after the apparent fuel-dumping confrontation.

Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley have spoken to their Russian counterparts about the destruction of the U.S. drone following the encounter with Russian fighter jets.

The calls with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov on Wednesday were the first since October.

Not uncommon

While intercept attempts are not uncommon, the incident amid the war in Ukraine has raised concerns it could bring the United States and Russia closer to direct conflict.

WATCH | Former U.S. marine says the incident shows Russia 'willing to engage: 

Russian collision with U.S. drone 'escalation' says former U.S. marine

19 hours ago
Former U.S. marine Elliot Ackerman says the length of time Russia devoted to following a U.S. drone over the Black Sea and the way he believes the drone was brought down shows that Russia is ready to engage in 'escalatory activities.'

That the two countries' top defence and military leaders were talking so soon after the encounter over the Black Sea underscored its seriousness.

The Russian Defence Ministry said in its report of the call with Austin that Shoigu accused the U.S. of provoking the incident by ignoring flight restrictions the Kremlin had imposed because of its military operations in Ukraine.

Russia also blamed "the intensification of intelligence activities against the interests of the Russian Federation."

Such U.S. actions "are fraught with the escalation of the situation in the Black Sea area," the Defence Ministry said, warning that Russia "will respond in kind to all provocations." 

A grey aircraft, which looks similar to a normal plane except for a lack of windows near the nose, flies over brown, mountainous terrain.
The U.S. military said it ditched the MQ-9 Reaper, like the one seen in this photo, in the sea Tuesday after a Russian fighter jet poured fuel on the unmanned aerial vehicle and then struck its propeller. (Lt.-Col. Leslie Pratt/U.S. air force/The Associated Press)

The MQ-9, which has a 20-metre wingspan, includes a ground control station and satellite equipment. It is capable of carrying munitions, but Air Force Brig.-Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesperson, would not say whether the ditched drone had been armed.

Ryder said the incident occurred at 7:03 a.m. Central European time over international waters, and well clear of Ukraine, after the Russian jets had flown in the vicinity of the drone for 30 to 40 minutes.

There did not appear to be any communications between the aircraft before the collision, Ryder said.

The U.S. has not recovered the crashed drone, U.S. Air Forces in Europe said in a statement, and neither has Russia, Ryder said. Russian officials said Wednesday that they would try to salvage fragments of the MQ-9 from the Black Sea.

U.S. officials have left open the possibility of trying to recover portions of the downed $32-million US drone, which they said crashed into waters that were 1,200 to 1,500 metres deep.

Other U.S. officials said the U.S. does not have military ships in the region, and won't likely seek to recover the wreckage.

However, they expressed confidence that there would be nothing left of military value on the drone if Russia manages to retrieve the wreckage.

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