The Pentagon has released a video, which it said was shot from a US MQ-9 Reaper drone during a close encounter with a Russian Su-27 fighter jet, after which the American aircraft plunged into the Black Sea earlier this week.
The 50-second clip provided to the media shows an interceptor plane approaching the drone from behind and apparently ejecting fuel as it climbs.
BREAKING: U.S. military releases dramatic declassified video taken by MQ-9 Reaper drone that shows the moment that a Russian Su-27 fighter jet collided with it after attempting to spray the drone with jet fuel. https://t.co/XGoVQN7ppJ pic.twitter.com/X9vH6qtFGf
— ABC News (@ABC) March 16, 2023
The Pentagon claimed that Russian jets made several such maneuvers on Tuesday, including one in which the unmanned aircraft’s tail propeller supposedly got hit and damaged. The footage appears to show two of them, with the camera glitching both times.
In the 42-second clip, the Russian Su-27 can be seen approaching the back of the MQ-9 drone while it starts to release fuel. This action was likely intended to discourage the surveillance drone’s presence in international airspace over the Black Sea and obstruct its advanced sensors.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the drone posed no threat to anyone and was operating in international airspace.
“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,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Russia has denied that its pilots acted unprofessionally or struck the drone’s propeller.
The Russian Defense Ministry spoke with Austin about the incident and said the drone ignored flight restrictions in the area posted by the Kremlin. There was also a report the drone was flying with no broadcasting transponder and headed toward the Russian border.
Russia pointed out the incident is due to “the intensification of intelligence activities against the interests of the Russian Federation.”
Although there was no loss of life, the incident outlines the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has sparked concerns that it may escalate and might lead to direct confrontation between Russia and the US. This comes as the spring offensive is underway.