Russian fighter jet forces down U.S. military drone over Black Sea

File photo: A United States Air Force MQ-9 Reaper – iStock Editorial

A Russian Air Force SU-27 fighter jet struck a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle Tuesday over international waters in the Black Sea, according to the U.S. military, which has denounced an «unsafe and unprofessional» maneuver by two Russian aircraft.

The command of U.S. forces in Europe has confirmed in a statement this incident, which occurred early in the morning. One of the Russian fighters hit one of the propellers of the drone, which led the American authorities to shoot it down at sea. Later, a spokesman warned that they were unable to recover the wreckage of the drone.

«Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and struck by a Russian aircraft, resulting in an impact and the complete loss of the MQ-9,» explained Maj. James B. Hecker, who warned of a «near» total collision.

Hecker urged Russian forces to behave «professionally and safely» in the area, as the United States and its allies «will continue to operate in international airspace». In this regard, Washington has denounced «a pattern of dangerous actions» by Russian pilots, at a particularly sensitive time due to the escalation of tensions over Ukraine.

In fact, US forces fear a «miscalculation» and an «unintended escalation» of these tensions.

For his part, the spokesman for the US National Security Council, John Kirby, announced that President Joe Biden has been informed about what happened, and stressed that «it is not unusual» for Russia to intercept US aircraft in the area.

In fact, he acknowledged that episodes similar to Tuesday’s have occurred in the past, although on this occasion the Russian maneuvers were «unsafe, unprofessional and reckless», according to CNN.

In this line, Kirby has stressed that the United States will continue to operate in international airspace. «If the message is that they want to prevent or deter us from flying and operating in international airspace (…) then the message has failed, because that is not going to happen,» he remarked.

«We are going to continue to fly and operate in international airspace over some international waters (…) The Black Sea does not belong to any nation. And we are going to continue to do what we have to do for our national security interests in that part of the world,» Kirby has asserted.

This incident has prompted the U.S. State Department to summon the Russian ambassador in Washington, Anatoli Antonov, to express its disagreement with what it considers to be a «blatant violation of international law».

According to State Department spokesman Ned Price, the US ambassador in Moscow, Lynne Tracy, has sent «a strong message» to the Russian Foreign Ministry, according to ABC News.

In the line of possible communications between Washington and Moscow, the Pentagon spokesman, Patrick Ryder, has pointed out that neither Defense Department officials, nor the person in charge of the area, Lloyd Austin, have had contacts with the Russian authorities about this incident.

Also, Ryder has detailed that the downed MQ-9 drone was carrying out «routine operations in the international airspace», maneuvers that the United States has been carrying out in the area since even before the outbreak of the war. According to the Pentagon, the Russian planes flew close to the drone for more than 30 minutes before it fell into the waters of the Black Sea.

Finally, the Defense Department spokesman declined to elaborate on whether the UAV was armed or unarmed, although he stressed that U.S. authorities are now working to declassify the images prior to Russia’s interception of the drone.


For its part, the Russian Defense Ministry has responded to reports that the U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle was spotted near the Crimean peninsula and was heading «towards the Russian state border», so members of the Air Force went to the drone to identify it.

According to Russian authorities, the U.S. drone was flying with its transponders turned off and violating the area delimited «in accordance with international rules» for overflights in international airspace.

During this process the Russian military at no time made use of weapons or came into contact with the U.S. drone, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement reported by the TASS news agency.

Thus, from Moscow they have asserted that, due to a series of «abrupt maneuvers», the American drone has «uncontrolled» its flight, losing altitude and finally plunging into the waters of the Black Sea.