US says ‘Reaper’ drone crashes into Black Sea after Russian intercept

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An MQ-9 Reaper drone flying at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada. — AFP/File
  • Russian jet strikes propeller of US military drone.
  • Two jets carried out intercept of American spy drone.
  • United States condemns incident as “unsafe”.

WASHINGTON: A Russian Su-27 fighter jet intercepted and struck the propeller of a US military MQ-9 “Reaper” surveillance drone on Tuesday, causing it to crash into the Black Sea in an incident condemned as “unsafe” by the US military.

Two Russian Su-27 jets carried out the intercept of the American spy drone, and one of them collided with it at 7:03am (0603 GMT). Several times before the collision, the Russian fighter jets dumped fuel on the MQ-9 and flew in front of it in unsafe manoeuvres, the US military said in a statement.

“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,” US Air Force General James Hecker, who oversees the US Air Force in the region, said in a statement.

“In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash.”

There was no immediate comment from Moscow.

The US military said the incident followed a pattern of dangerous behaviour by Russian pilots operating near aircraft flown by the US and its allies, including over the Black Sea. The Black Sea lies between Europe and Asia and is bordered by Russia and Ukraine among other countries.

White House spokesman John Kirby said President Joe Biden was also briefed about the incident. 

While there have been other such intercepts, Kirby said, this one was noteworthy because it was “unsafe and unprofessional” and caused the downing of a US aircraft. “So it’s unique in that regard,” Kirby said.

“The State Department will be speaking directly with their Russian counterparts, and expressing our concerns over this unsafe and unprofessional intercept,” he said.

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