BREAKING: Russian jet collides with US drone over the Black Sea
The US military says a Russian jet has collided with an American surveillance drone over the Black Sea, causing US forces to bring the drone down in international waters.
The US European Command said in a statement that two Russian Su-27 fighter jets “conducted an unsafe and unprofessional intercept” of a US MQ-9 drone that was operating within international airspace over the Black Sea.
It said one of the Russian fighters “struck the propeller of the MQ-9, causing US forces to have to bring the MQ-9 down in international waters,” adding that several times before the collision, the Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 in “a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner.”
“This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional,” it added.
Russian and US aircraft have operated over the Black Sea during the course of the war but this is the first known such interaction, a potentially dangerous escalation at a critical time in the fighting.
The Reaper drone, manufactured by the US company General Atomics, is a remotely piloted aircraft of the MALE (medium altitude long endurance) type, equipped with ultra-modern on-board sensors (optronic ball and radar) to carry out surveillance operations at a cruising speed of 335 km/h.
With a wingspan of 20 metres, it has an endurance of more than 24 hours of flight. It can carry several types of weaponry: laser and/or GPS-guided bombs (GBU) or Hellfire missiles. Its ground crew consists of four people.
In addition to the United States, several European armies have Reaper drones in their fleets, including the British, Italians, French and Spanish.
The skies over the Black Sea are the scene of regular interactions between drones and aircraft from NATO countries and the Russian armed forces.