The Department of Defense released video footage Thursday morning of the incident in which two Russian fighter jets harassed a U.S. military drone over international waters — leading to a collision and the complete loss of the drone.
“Two Russian Su-27 aircraft conducted an unsafe and unprofessional intercept with a U.S. Air Force intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance unmanned MQ-9 aircraft operating within international airspace over the Black Sea on March 14, 2023,” U.S. European Command said in a statement. “Russian Su-27s dumped fuel upon and struck the propeller of the MQ-9, causing U.S. forces to have to bring the MQ-9 down in international waters.”
#BREAKING US army published the footage from the drone incident with Russia over the Black Sea pic.twitter.com/ney41fNjGb
— Guy Elster (@guyelster) March 16, 2023
A previous statement from U.S. European Command on Tuesday said that the two jets had repeatedly harassed the drone while the drone was “conducting routine operations in international airspace.”
“U.S. and Allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace and we call on the Russians to conduct themselves professionally and safely,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker, commander, U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa.
The statement said that the incident followed a “pattern of dangerous actions” by Russian pilots while interacting with U.S. and Allied aircraft over international airspace that could “lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation.”
“U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa routinely fly aircraft throughout Europe over sovereign territory and throughout international airspace in coordination with applicable host nation and international laws,” the statement added. “In order to bolster collective European defense and security, these missions support Allied, partner, and U.S. national objectives.”
Nikolai Patrushev, Russian Security Council Secretary and the former chief of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), said that the Russian military was going to try to recover the $32 million drone out of the Black Sea.
“The Americans keep saying that they are not participating in hostilities,” Patrushev claimed during a press conference. “This is yet another confirmation that they are directly involved in these events, in the war.”
General Mark Milley said Wednesday that the U.S. does not consider the incident an act of war. “Incidents happen,” Milley said. “And clearly we do not seek armed conflict with Russia and I believe at this point we should investigate this incident and move on from there.”