The US military on Thursday released footage of the Russian military intercepting its drone over the Black Sea, showing a fighter jet spraying fuel on the plane, which was later seen with a damaged propeller blade.
The declassified video footage posted on the US Armed Forces Europe Command website lasts 42 seconds and shows a Russian Sukhoi-27 passing just above the drone twice.
According to Washington, the Reaper MQ-9 fell into international waters after being hit by a Russian fighter jet. Moscow admits its fighter jets intercepted the plane, but denies any link leading to the crash.
It was “a reckless and dangerous move,” said Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who visited Addis Ababa.
On the first pass, there was no apparent shock between the two devices, or anything that seemed to justify the drone’s fall.
The maneuver “disrupts video transmissions,” a US military base in Europe comments, noting that the drone’s propeller is “visible and intact.”
During the second passage, it is not established whether it is the same hunter or a second hunter, the maneuver is similar, but the device moves even closer to the drone.
Then the image transmission is interrupted for 60 seconds. As it restarts, the US Air Force notes that “the propeller can be seen again and one of the blades is damaged.”
– “apparently borderline” –
“The maneuver is obviously borderline”, AFP told a European military fighter pilot, stressing that under the rules normally in force, a fighter jet intercepting in the sky is done “in parallel” to the intercepted aircraft and never. At such a close distance.
On Tuesday, General James Hecker, the commander of US air forces in Europe, said the MQ-9 Reaper, which was performing “routine operations in international airspace”, was intercepted by Su-27 fighter jets and then “crashed by a Russian aircraft, resulting in an accident”. and loss” drone.
Russia admitted that two warplanes had intercepted the drone, but said it was not responsible for its downing.
This is the first time since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2022, that a NATO country has acknowledged the loss of self-propelled equipment in this highly flammable region.
Moscow says it wants to fish the drone to demonstrate, in its view, US involvement in operations in Ukraine.
On Wednesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said one of the reasons for the incident was the “strengthening” of US spying operations.
Washington, however, has indicated that it has taken steps to protect sensitive data that may still be on the device.
“We are convinced that what used to be valuable is no longer valuable,” said Mark Milley, the US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The skies over the Black Sea have been the scene of more regular interactions between drones and aircraft of NATO countries and the Russian armed forces, especially since the start of the war in Ukraine.
America uses Reaper MQ-9 drones for surveillance, intelligence gathering and strikes. The U.S. Central Command said several aircraft have gone missing in recent years, including one that was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over Yemen in 2019.
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