According to the American military, a Russian fighter jet and a US drone collided, leading to the unmanned US aircraft crashing into the Black Sea. This event highlights the growing potential for a direct confrontation between Russia and the US regarding the ongoing Ukraine conflict.
The US military reported that the drone was on a routine mission in international airspace when two Russian jets attempted to intercept it. However, Russia denies any direct contact between the two aircraft, stating that the drone crashed following a “sharp manoeuvre.” The Russian defense ministry also claimed that the MQ-9 Reaper drone was flying with its transponders turned off. Transponders are communication devices that allow aircraft to be tracked.
The US military reports that the incident occurred on Tuesday at approximately 07:03 Central European Time (06:03 GMT). They explained,
“Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9,” Several times before the collision, the Su-27 fighter jets dumped fuel on the drone in a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner,”
the US summoned the Russian ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, to express their disapproval of the incident. After the meeting, Russian state media quoted Antonov as stating that Moscow regarded the drone incident as “a provocation.”
Tensions have been escalating over the Black Sea ever since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the US and UK have increased their reconnaissance and surveillance flights. They always operate within international airspace, yet Tuesday’s encounter raises concerns.
The US alleges that Russian pilots have been engaging in a “pattern of dangerous actions” when interacting with allied aircraft in the area. So, it’s possible that this was simply a mistake by a Russian pilot who got too close while buzzing the drone. However, if this was a deliberate attack on a US aircraft by a Russian warplane, then it would be a significant provocation and a substantial escalation of the conflict.
US military commanders warned Russia “could lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation.”
A Russian military jet struck the propeller of an American reconnaissance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday, causing its loss in international waters, U.S. officials said. Russia denied that the jet made contact. https://t.co/OAXAEoxe3P pic.twitter.com/7IqQUs4PfH
— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 14, 2023