A US MQ-9 Reaper drone crashed in the Black Sea on Tuesday after an intercept by a Russian Su-27 fighter.
Around 7:03 AM (CET), one of the two Russian Su-27 aircraft that intercepted the drone collided with the propeller of the MQ-9, forcing US forces to land it in international waters.
Prior to the collision, the Su-27s repeatedly flew in front of and dumped fuel on the MQ-9 in an unsafe and unprofessional manner.
This is the first incident involving US and Russian aircraft since the start of the Russian invasion in Ukraine in February last year. While challenging Russian intercepts of US military aircraft over the Black Sea are nothing unusual, an intercept so aggressive that it forced an unmanned aircraft down is possibly the first such known event in years.
“Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9,” said US Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker. “In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash.”
“US and allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace and we call on the Russians to conduct themselves professionally and safely,” Hecker added.
The US European Command noted that these actions pose a significant risk of miscalculation and unintended escalation.
The State Department also condemned the maneuver and summoned Russia’s ambassador over the incident.