On Wednesday evening, the US European Military Command released video footage of a Russian SU-27 striking the propeller of an American MQ-9 reaper drone. The mid-air collision that caused the drone to fall into international waters was caused by Russian pilots first dumping fuel on the unmanned vehicle in an effort to block its recording capabilities and then by a careless clipping of the unit.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin delivered a brief encapsulation of the events, saying, “Two Russian jets dumped fuel on an unmanned U.S. MQ-9 aircraft conducting routine operations in international airspace. And one Russian jet intercepted and hit our MQ-9 aircraft, resulting in a crash.”
Defense Department spokesman, Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, accused the Russians of carelessness, saying, “This incident indicates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional.”
The craft crashed into the sea, where it is believed recovery efforts by Kremlin forces are underway. Should Moscow manage to recover the drone, it could potentially provide valuable technology to the Russian military.
The release of this footage dispels official statements released by the Kremlin that argued the two aircraft had not made contact and that American accusations that such a collision had occurred were simply trying to escalate the entire issue. “The Russian fighter did not use their onboard weapons, did not come into contact with the UAV, and returned safely to their home airfield,” the Kremlin initially reported.
Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of purposely taking down the drone to drag America further into the conflict. National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said: “The incident with the American MQ-9 Reaper UAV — provoked by Russia over the Black Sea — is Putin’s way of signaling his readiness to expand the conflict to involve other parties… The purpose of this all-in tactic is to always be raising the stakes.”
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