A US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper surveillance drone was brought down on Tuesday morning over the Black Sea, after what its European Command (EUCOM) described as “an unsafe and unprofessional intercept” by two Russian jets.
The “Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance” platform was “operating within international airspace” when the airplanes approached, EUCOM said in a statement. One of the Su-27s “struck the propeller of the MQ-9,” so the operators ditched the drone into the sea.
“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,” the US military complained, accusing the Russians of “a lack of competence.”
General James Hecker, the commander of US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, said the drone was “conducting routine operations in international airspace” and that the crash had resulted in a “complete loss” of the MQ-9.
EUCOM said the US “routinely” operates drone flights in international airspace to “bolster collective European defense and security” and “support Allied, partner, and US national objectives.” Hecker said the flights would continue, calling on the Russians “to conduct themselves professionally and safely.”
The Kremlin and the Russian Defense Ministry have yet to comment on the alleged incident.
The US has admitted to providing Ukraine with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information in the conflict against Russia, while insisting it is not a party to the hostilities. US and NATO spy aircraft routinely fly over the Black Sea and approach Crimea, sometimes just before Ukrainian forces launch attacks on the Russian peninsula.
Last week, a US strategic bomber flew a practice run for a missile attack on St. Petersburg, while staying in international and NATO airspace.
The Pentagon routinely uses the phrase “unsafe and unprofessional” to describe incidents when interceptors chase off US drones, spy planes or fighter jets that come too close to the Russian border.
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